A news release from Visit London on international visits to the capital in 2006 prompts me to take a look at the UK visitor data. It reveals some interesting clues about the shifting shape of the global economy.

Travel generally is on the increase: more people are travelling to the UK. According to the International Passenger Survey, visitor numbers have climbed by about 16% between 2004 and 2006; visitor spend has increased by about the same. Most coutries show trend patterns broadly in line with this.

But the number of Polish visitors has more than doubled in that time – and Poland is now the eighth largest source of UK visitors (behind the USA, France, Germany, Irish Republic, Netherlands, Spain and Italy). Expect it to overtake Italy soon. Expenditure by Poles has also doubled.

The other significant increase is among Indian tourists. Numbers are up by 30% between 2004 and 2006, to 339,000, expenditure up by a little less, but on both counts they have now overtaken the Jaoanese as the principal UK market in Asia.

And maybe the Chinese tourism boom is just starting to happen. In 2006, 128,000 mainland Chinese tourists spent £139m – more per head than either Indian or Japanese visitors.

The summary London data can be found in London Visitor Forecasts 2007. There is a news story here.

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