Britain's Tourism Sector Poised to Grow in 2015

Britain's tourism sector is expected to improve in 2015, as it continues to support the country’s economic resurgence as part of the Government’s long-term economic plan, Culture Secretary Sajid Javid announced over the weekend.

Forecasts from VisitBritain, the nation's tourism bureau, predict inbound tourism spend to rise by 4.5 percent in 2015 with visitors from overseas expected to spend £22.2 billion – an increase of almost £1 billion on 2014 (with spend forecast to be £21.3 billion for this year). Javid noted that the 2012 Olympic Games and Diamond Jubilee boosted the country's appeal to an international audience, and a simplified visa system that encourages more high-spending tourists from China is also making a significant impact.

Emerging Neighborhoods

Many of London's lesser-known neighborhoods have been booming recently with new travel interest and hotel investment. For example, Mayor Boris Johnson rebranded Holborn as “Midtown” in 2010 in an effort to boost its appeal. The neighborhood's central location means easy access to Covent Garden, Soho and the theater district, plus the historical British Museum and Royal Opera House, and Oxford Street shopping.

While East London caught the world's attention as host of the 2012 Olympics, West London has quietly blossomed. Fashionable Notting Hill and its even more posh neighbor, Holland Park, are always in demand, but as real estate in those areas has escalated, Shepherd’s Bush, just a mile from the heart of Notting Hill, has plenty to offer—shopping, dining, theater—plus it is arguably the most well-connected destination in London, with tube, buses and Overground trains in every direction, and less than a 45-minute drive from Heathrow.

Shoreditch, meanwhile, is an eclectic mix of art, fashion, food and fun, set in a mix of renovated industrial warehouses and historic buildings nestled between leafy park squares and winding streets. The gentrification of this area has been so dramatic that now when any neighborhood in London improves, they say it’s been “Shoreditched.”

New Hotel Buzz

The UK's hotel scene is also going strong headed into 2015. The Aloft Liverpool Hotel celebrated its opening earlier this month. Situated in the former Royal Insurance Building, a site that has been abandoned for the last two decades, the newly designed city-center hotel has transformed the space into a modern, stylish and fun destination.

The Oetker Collection is advancing into the United Kingdom for the first time to manage the historic 93-room Lanesborough Hotel, which has been closed since the end of 2013 for complete renovation. Under Oetker Collection management, the property will re-open as a "masterpiece hotel" in spring 2015. (No specific date has been announced.)

September was a big month for hotels: The Mondrian London at Sea Containers officially debuted that month along London's South Bank. The 359-room hotel is the first Mondrian-branded property outside the US

Mondrian London at Sea Containers

Also in September, the InterContinental Westminster rebranded as the Conrad London St. James, housed in a historic 19th century brick building called Queen Anne's Chambers.

September also saw the debut of The Beaumont in an original Art Deco building from 1926. This is the first hotel project from Chris Corbin and Jeremy King – the restaurateurs behind The Wolseley and The Delaunay – and the property includes an "inhabitable sculpture" by artist Antony Gormley that protrudes from the building’s façade. 

Looking ahead, Four Seasons already operates two lavish hotels in London (Park Lane and Canary Wharf, as well as a country hotel in nearby Hampshire), and soon fans will have another luxury option in the British capital. The brand recently announced big plans for Ten Trinity Square, the former Port of London authority headquarters overlooking the Tower of London and the River Thames.

The Goring Hotel, meanwhile, is set to emerge from renovation in March 2015, with design elements from top English artists. The Marriott Hotel Park Lane in London's Mayfair neighborhood, meanwhile, will undergo renovations and is slated to reopen in June 2015.

The Beaumont

Top Visitor Attractions

The UK’s heritage is seen as a strong asset to attract travelers from all over the world. Buckingham Palace, Scottish and Welsh Castles, Stonehenge and a Premier League match are the top five must-sees for a person visiting from China. Norwegian, French, German and American visitors also all cite British heritage as the main reason to explore the country.

Other attractions outside of London riding high in the top attractions lists include Chester Zoo, the National Railway Museum in York, Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyards and the Tate Museum in St Ives.

By the Numbers

“Tourism will continue to be one of the country’s major export earners," Sally Balcombe, chief executive of VisitBritain, said in a statement. "One of our priorities for 2015 will be to inspire international visits to the nations...Our GREAT campaign continues to produce results and generated at least £1.8 billion from inbound visitors in its first three years, creating economic value and jobs across Britain’s tourism businesses.”

As well as spend rising the number of visits from people from overseas is expected to increase with 35.1 million trips expected in 2015, up 2.5 percent on 2014.

"In 2010, total spend from overseas visitors was £16.8 billion from 29.8 million trips...The entire tourism sector in the UK – both domestic and international – contributed £127 billion GVA to the nation’s economy in 2013 – that’s £14.5 million every hour - and supports 3.1 million jobs."