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2023 visitor economy forecast: Better times are coming, with international visitor spend set to surpass pre-pandemic figures

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History. Heritage. Vibrant spaces. Warm welcomes. With the release of its forecast for the new year, VisitBritain has identified that each of these niches are set to be on the agenda for visitors to experience in 2023.

Within the forecast, VisitBritain has highlighted inbound tourism for 2023 will continue the strong recovery we've already seen in overseas visitor spending, with predicted figures surpassing pre-Covid levels for the first time. For Lincolnshire businesses this is encouraging news. Not only do we have heritage in abundance but as a county we are investing in preserving our history too, with Town Deal projects happening in Lincolnshire market towns by Heritage Lincolnshire and Lincolnshire Co-op continuing its investment in the Cornhill Quarter in Lincoln. These projects and others are working to restore and innovate our historic buildings and spaces.

VisitBritain's forecast highlights that spending by inbound visitors is predicted to grow faster than visitor volume, with higher spending also per trip, firming up what we've already seen of visitors looking to book and experience quality experiences. Fewer visitors are set to be buying more but intending to stay longer - this, again, gives Lincolnshire tourism economy businesses an opportunity to capitalise on. Although Lincolnshire's international visitor numbers are low when compared to other destinations (something we are hoping to tackle in the future), domestic visitors are actively looking for quality experiences to spend their money on. Visitors want to know their money is being spent well, invested back into businesses whose values mirror their own, tourism as a whole - like so many individual facets within it - is becoming more conscious. For so many visitors now, their spend has to be a moral one.

And we aren't talking a small amount here either. VisitBritain's overall forecast is for spending by international visitors in the UK to reach £29.5 billion in 2023, up 4% on the all-time spending high of £28.4 billion in 2019. Looking at the number of visits to the UK, 35.1 million visits are forecast, 86% of the 40.9 million in 2019.

VB inbound visits 2023 forecast VB inbound spend 2023 forecast

Looking back over 2022, and VisitBritain’s research showed that exploring Britain’s history and heritage is the top motivator for international travelers keen to visit this year, followed by visiting its vibrant towns and cities.

Its research has also showed that the biggest drivers for visitors globally in choosing a destination are that it offers ‘good value for money’ and that it is a ‘welcoming place to visit’. More than half of people VisitBritain surveyed who were keen to travel, had also not made up their minds where to go, so valuable opportunities to influence destination choice and drive bookings are still very much on the table for visitor economy business this year.

VisitBritain has also amended its end of year forecast for 2022, increasing it to 29.7 million inbound visits to the UK, 73% of 2019, with a spend of £25.9 billion, 91% of 2019. This follows an increase in overseas visitor spending in the UK this year with higher spend per visit and longer stays, based on the latest data.

  • Visits from short-haul European markets are forecast to recover quicker than long-haul overall, continuing the steady recovery seen this year, reaching 24.1 million by the end of 2023, 88% of the 27.3 million visits in 2019.
  • For long-haul markets, the forecast is for 11.0 million overseas visits to the UK in 2023, 81% of the 13.6 million in 2019, with significant variation across markets.
  • The latest data also shows average visitor spending in 2022 of £846 per visit compared to £671 in 2019.
  • The latest official ONS statistics available for inbound tourism to the UK are for January to August 2022. These show that there were 18.9 million inbound visits from January to August 2022 with overseas visitors spending £16bn in the UK.

UK Tourism Minister, Stuart Andrew, said: “It is fantastic to see that tourism is continuing to bounce back strongly after the sector received substantial government support during the pandemic. This predicted rise in visitor spending will give a further boost to the industry, helping to create new jobs and drive economic growth across the country.”

VisitBritain CEO, Patricia Yates, said: “Our priority has been to rebuild international visitor value so it is very encouraging to see the continued strong recovery forecast in spend, supporting jobs, small businesses and local economies right across the country. Tourism is also an extremely competitive global industry. We’ll be out with a new campaign early next year competing hard in markets where we’re seeing strong growth. This includes the USA, our most valuable inbound market with spending up 15% so far this year, as well as the Gulf and our major European markets.”

This year, VisitBritain is also set to launch a new GREAT Britain marketing campaign across Europe, the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries and the USA in early 2023 to drive bookings, inspiring visitors to ‘See Things Differently,’ promoting messages of warm welcome and highlighting Britain as a dynamic, adventurous and inclusive destination. We’ll be actively looking to see how Lincolnshire can be part of these campaigns.

The campaign will also capture major events in 2023 including the Coronation of King Charles III in May, with an additional Bank Holiday announced, and Liverpool hosting the Eurovision Song Contest, on behalf of Ukraine, also in May, timely and valuable opportunities to promote Britain’s welcome and creativity and ability to host events of the highest calibre.


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