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The number of overseas trips taken by British travellers rose by 3.5% in 2013 to hit 58.5 million – the first year of real growth in four years.
There was a 4% increase in the number of holiday visits in 2013, growing from 36.2 million in 2012 to 37.6 million.
This followed a sharp decline in 2009 at the start of the economic downturn and a period of “negligible growth” between 2010 and 2012, according to latest figures from the Office of National Statistics.
The most popular period for outbound travel was the peak summer months of July to September when numbers grew by 5.9% year on year to 20.4 million.
Visits to friends and family continued to grow to hit a record level of 12.5 million last year and remain the second most popular reason for visits abroad.
But business trips continued to show a general decline, falling 1.9% in 2013 to 6.8 million, despite growth in 2011 and 2012.
Spending by Britons travelling overseas amounted to £34.9 billion, eclipsing the £21 billion spent by the 33 million people who visited the UK in 2013.
The most popular countries to travel to in 2013 were Spain (up 5.8% to 11.7 million visits) and France (8.9 million) followed by the US, Ireland, Italy, Germany, Portugal, Holland, Greece and Poland.
The UK saw a record 12.7 million inbound holidaymakers last year, a rise of 6.4% with spending up by 12% to £8.5 billion.
Inbound business trips were up by 7% to almost 8 million but still down on the 9 million level seen in 2006.
VFR trips to the UK rose by 4.2% to 9.3 million, but still short of a record 9.7 million in 2008.
VisitBritain chairman Christopher Rodrigues said: “We are delighted with these final results for the key post-Olympic year. Every single nation across Britain has seen an uplift in visitor numbers and, even more importantly, there have been substantial increases in spending for one of Britain’s largest export industries.
“VisitBritain encourages visitors to explore all our nations and regions so I am particularly pleased that spending growth across the Rest of England (outside of London) and Scotland is faster than for London, which itself had a record breaking year.
“These strong results underpin the forecast that inbound tourism will continue to grow by over 6% a year across the rest of this decade, making a significant contribution to the UK’s balance of payments and continuing to offer rapidly growing employment opportunities.
“Tourism is, and always will be, a major part of the British economy.”
Sourced from Travel Weekly