The late Queen’s parting gift to Britain was a massive boost to its flagging tourism industry, new figures show. Windsor Great Park, the magnificent grounds adjacent to the towering castle, was the UK’s most visited place last year.
Some 5,636,844 flocked to the Berkshire town to marvel at the Long Walk and Deer Park and where the Queen called home.
The monarch, who died on September 8 aged 96, was buried alongside her husband prince Philip in Windsor Castle’s King George VI Memorial Chapel 11 days later.
The seismic event sparked huge interest with record numbers visiting land owned by the Crown Estate.
Her Statue Funeral on 19 September – the first in Britain since Sir Winston Churchill in 1965 – was held at Westminster Abbey, itself the 21st most popular attraction, drawing 1,063,063 visitors.
Overall, 123.4million visits were made to UK attractions – a 69 percent increase on 2021 when Britain was shackled by lockdown restrictions.
Bernard Donoghue, director of The Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, said: “These figures show visitors flocked back to their favourite places in 2022 to breathe, heal, repair and to enjoy special moments with special people in special places. The year ended strongly with attractions reporting a very busy Christmas, strong visitor numbers and strong retail sales. “People clearly wanted to create special memories with their loved ones after two difficult years and a challenging economic climate.”
He added: “We are still experiencing the tourism equivalent of long Covid with many attractions still not back up to 2019 visitor levels due, mainly, to the absence of international visitors, notably from China and the Far East, but I am confident they will return this year and we will see a continuing healthy recovery.”
Other top attractions that drew huge numbers included Stonehenge in Wiltshire, Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill in Oxfordshire, Eden Project in Cornwall, and Canterbury Cathedral.
Although the number of visits overall was a 23 percent decline on the 161.2 million witnessed in 2019, it represents a massive fillip for domestic tourism ahead of what is expected to be a record breaking summer season.
London remains the biggest pull, with nine of the top 10 spots filled with attractions in the capital, including the Natural History Museum, Tate Modern, The National Gallery and Tower of London. The region that saw the biggest year-on-year growth was the North West.
The tonic comes as Britain’s global appeal will see tourists flood here this summer, providing a £30billion shot in the arm.
Some 35 million overseas visitors are set to touch down in the UK to explore the diverse riches on offer.
The forecast signals a return to pre-Covid levels and comes as industry chiefs embark on an aggressive international sell.
Tourists from the USA, Canada, the Gulf, France, Germany and Spain top the list of international travellers heading here to soak up major set-piece events including King Charles’s Coronation, Eurovision, Wimbledon and the unrivalled summer festival season.
Visit Britain chief Patricia Yates said: “We know there is pent-up demand for travel and that tourism is also a fiercely competitive global industry. Our priority is to build on the recovery we have seen.
“All eyes are on Britain this year and by telling the story of our dynamic destinations and diverse culture, along with a warm British welcome, we’re inspiring visitors to discover more, stay longer and explore year-round, supporting local businesses and economies.”
The spending forecast comes after a torrid three years during which tourism was battered by travel restrictions. The positive outlook is up 4 percent up on the all-time spending high of £28.4 billion in 2019 and projected inbound visits to the UK are 86 percent of 2019 levels.
In May millions are expected to soak up the pomp and pageantry of the Coronation. The event will take place at Westminster Abbey on May 6, with Monday, May 8 declared a public holiday.
The following weekend the Eurovision Song Contest comes to Liverpool after Ukraine, winner of the 2022 edition, was unable to stage the event due to security concerns.
Spending by cash-rich Americans is set to be up 40 percent on 2019, based on latest statistics.
The rush to Britain comes after the tourism industry suffered a £97billion hit during the pandemic and tens of thousands of businesses and attractions lost months of trading. In 2020 the industry saw two-thirds of its value wiped off.
Malcolm Bell, Char of Visit Cornwall, said: “In Cornwall we have seen a revival of interest from our overseas customers, especially from the USA, making up for the Covid years when we only had the domestic market. Cornwall has certainly not lost its global appeal and is benefiting from the pent-up demand caused by the travel restrictions in the pandemic.”