UK tourist industry eyes emerging markets
The number of tourists visiting the UK from emerging nations such as Brazil, Russia, India and China is set to rise sharply, a report by VisitBritain says.
It predicted that by 2014, visitor numbers from China alone would increase by almost 100,000 - a 90% jump.
This was partly due to the popularity of Premier League football in China, it added.
However, the bulk of people visiting the UK will still come from traditional European and North American markets.
The report also looked at reasons why tourists chose the UK as a holiday destination. This included relaxing "well-being" breaks, the opportunity to visit a range of galleries and museums, and sampling traditional British pubs.
It said travellers had moved away from wanting a service towards wanting an "experience", saying they would choose their holiday on the basis of how real or authentic it felt.
The numbers of visitors from emerging nations remains small. Between Brazil, Russia, India and China there were 650,000 visitors to the UK last year - this compares with 3.8 million from France alone.
Between them, France, the Irish Republic, the US, Germany and Spain are expected to send an extra 3.3 million new visitors by 2014.
However, tourist chiefs are looking to new markets after 2009 saw 1.2 million fewer American visitors than in the record year of 2000.
And in the first seven months of this year, tourist numbers from North America were down by 6% on the same period a year ago.
The relative weakness of the dollar against the pound, and the sluggish recovery of the US economy, are believed to be factors in the falling numbers.
VisitBritain forecasts the number of visitors from India will grow by 29% by 2014, with more than 100,000 extra visits. Russian tourist numbers are predicted to rise by 24% with Brazilian visitors set to increase by 32%.
The chief executive of VisitBritain, Sandie Dawe, said the 2012 Olympics and Paralympic games offered a "once in a lifetime boost" to the tourist industry.
She added: "The challenge for Britain is that competition is getting tougher every year and we are not immune [but]... I am confident that we will come through the challenges ahead."