UK's Tourism Industry

Tourism is the United Kingdom's sixth largest source of income, contributing 8.9 percent to the country's GDP. Tourism is worth £115.4 billion to the UK economy when both direct and indirect contributions are taken into consideration. One in twelve jobs in the UK is linked in some way to tourism and around 250,000 people are employed in the tourist industry. In 2012, 26.8 million visitors from overseas came to the UK, and residents of the UK took 104.5 million domestic holidays of one night or more, and 1.5 billion day trips.


The United Kingdom is made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland with some smaller offshore islands. Great Britain is an island, surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the North Sea, the Irish Sea and the English Channel. Northern Ireland is situated on a separate island, bordering the Republic of Ireland. The southern coast of England is 22 miles from France.

Most visited attractions

The most visited attractions in the United Kingdom are all situated in London, with the top eight on the list located in the capital. The British Museum tops the list with 5.5 million visitor admissions, followed by the Tate Modern with 5.3 million. The National Gallery and the Natural History Museum have around 5 million visitors each, and the Victoria & Albert Museum has 3.2 million visitors every year. The most visited attraction outside London is the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, with 1.8 million visitors.


England accounts for over half the total area of the UK and contains its largest city, London. While England's capital attracts a large majority of tourists, 15.5 million, there are several other popular tourist areas in the country.

The south west of England is largely rural and has natural beauty, an accessible coastline and a long maritime heritage. The Eden Project in Cornwall and Stonehenge in Wiltshire each draw around one million visitors annually.

In the north of England, the Lake District in Cumbria attracts around 14 million people every year, including both overnight visitors and day trippers. An extensive national park with spectacular mountains, lakes and forests, the Lake District attracts tourists who love nature and outdoor pursuits.

English cities visited by tourists include Liverpool, which attracts many international visitors drawn to its Beatles connections as well as its numerous museums; Bath, which has well -preserved Georgian heritage and York, whose Railway Museum and Minster are popular attractions. England's seaside resorts attract many visitors, mostly in the summer. The northern resorts of Scarborough and Blackpool have the most visitors, followed by Brighton and Bournemouth in the south of England.


Scotland makes up around one third of the UK's total area, and includes a large number of islands, including the Shetlands, Orkneys and Hebrides. There were 2.2 million overseas visitors to Scotland in 2012 and 12.8 million domestic visitors. Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland, and Edinburgh, the capital, is the second largest. Both have many visitor attractions including museums, cathedrals and zoos, but most visitors to Scotland go there for the unspoilt scenery of mountains and glens, particularly in the Highlands, for the unique culture and the many historic castles, houses and battlegrounds. Many tourists travel to Scotland to enjoy golf, fishing, hunting and other outdoor pursuits. Genealogy draws many visitors from the USA wishing to trace their Scottish ancestors, while the food and drink of Scotland provides a niche tourist market.


Wales is a small region in the UK, accounting for less than a tenth of its area. Tourism is important to Wales, bringing £6.2 billion to the economy and employing over 8 percent of the workforce. In 2011 there were 10.6 million visitors, with the majority, 9.6 million, coming from the UK. The landscape is often mountainous and the coastline rugged, with numerous historic sites from castles to mines. Wales has three national parks: Snowdonia, the Brecon Beacons and the Pembrokeshire Coast, all of which attract tourists wishing to enjoy hiking, camping, climbing and mountain biking. Wales has many adventure centres and places to enjoy extreme sports, and its well-preserved railways, particularly in Snowdonia, bring train enthusiasts to visit.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland had 1.98 million tourists in 2012, with 60,000 crossing the border from the Republic of Ireland. Most visitors to Northern Island go to enjoy the many lakes, mountains and forests of the country. The capital, Belfast, has several visitor attractions including Titanic, which has 665,000 visitors a year. Londonderry, named UK City of Culture for 2013, is another city popular with tourists. Many visitors go to see the Giants Causeway and the surrounding coast, Lough Neagh, the largest lake in the UK and other natural areas such as the Mountains of Mourne and the Fermanagh Lakelands.