Weak pound tempts Americans to UK as Britons stay nearer home


By Andy BruceLONDON, May 19 (Reuters) - Visits to Britain by North
Americans surged at the start of this year as tourists took
advantage of the weakened pound, which may be forcing British
holidaymakers to stay closer to home, official data showed on
    Some 8.1 million people visited Britain in the first quarter
of this year, up from 7.6 million in the same quarter a year ago
- a 7 percent increase, the Office for National Statistics said.
    "The (data) indicate that the sharply weakened pound is
encouraging more visits to the UK from abroad and more spend by
visitors," Howard Archer, economist at IHS Global Insight, said.
    "This is especially true of North America, which ties in
with the pound's fall being most pronounced against the U.S.
    The pound tumbled against the U.S. dollar after the June 23
vote to leave the European Union, instantly making Britain a
cheaper place to visit. As of the first quarter of 2017, it was
still down around 17 percent against the American currency.
    The number of North American tourists visiting Britain
totalled 760,000 in the three months to March, up 17 percent
compared with a year ago.
    But on the flip-side of the pound's plunge, the number of
Britons making the trip to North America fell 3 percent over the
same period to 710,000.
    There was a 2 percent increase in the number of British
visitors to Europe, suggesting the pound's fall may be forcing
British people to holiday closer to home and chiming with
reports of a rise in "staycationing" in Britain. [nL8N1HL3F8]
    Visitors to Britain from other European countries increased
4 percent compared with a year ago, rising to 6.2 million.
    Domestic and foreign tourism accounts directly for about 4
percent of Britain's economy, according to official statistics,
though the industry says the broader contribution is larger.
    Britain's economy has outperformed most forecasters'
expectations since the vote to leave the European Union, which
sent the pound to a record low against a basket of currencies.
    This has already produced a sharp rise in inflation, but
there has also been evidence of a modest boost to exports and
inbound tourism.
    A survey of manufacturers on Friday showed export orders are
growing at the joint-fastest pace since December, 2013.

 (Editing by Ed Osmond)
 ((andy.bruce@thomsonreuters.com; +442075423484; Reuters
Messaging: andy.bruce.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))


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