The research highlights that the city is the fourth most visited place in the UK by global guests with an increase of 163,000 visitors (17.3%), up on the figure for 2014 (944,000). For the second consecutive year, this was the largest increase for any city outside London.
Consumer spend by foreign visitors reached £386 million – an increase of £87 million on 2014 figures. Similarly, this was the fourth highest of any UK city and only 8% lower than London.
Notably, the research also indicates that the city’s strong tourist appeal was further enhanced in 2015 by a high proportion of international business visitors. With 619,000 visits recorded, Birmingham again saw the highest growth of any city outside London. This is 120,000 (19.4%) up on the figure for 2014 (499,000) and the largest rise of any UK regional city.
Cllr John Clancy, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “These figures are great news for Birmingham, confirming the city’s international standing and growing appeal. More people are discovering Birmingham and its surrounding areas than ever before.
“With over £1billion of investment in the region in the last year, Greater Birmingham is experiencing record levels of growth. These have included the New Street station transport hub, the integrated leisure and entertainment complex Resorts World Birmingham based at the NEC, luxury retail centre The Mailbox and high end shopping destination Grand Central.
“Birmingham is a city of progress and changes to its physical and economic landscapes will continue.”
Kathryn James, Managing Director, NEC, said: “These latest figures reinforce what we’ve been saying for some time – Birmingham is now emerging as a world class city and Greater Birmingham has never been more attractive for visitors, be it through business investment, tech enterprise, advanced manufacturing, leisure and entertainment or hospitality.
“Our NEC Group venues are also playing their part in attracting international visitors through exhibitions, conference and live events, and even more so now that our destination offer is enhanced following the opening of Resorts World Birmingham on the NEC campus last year.
“The region and its calibre is continuing to grow and our collective offer is being developed further by a connected set of masterplans which are currently in progress and will drive even greater visitor numbers in the future.”
Emma Gray, Director of Marketing and Communications for Marketing Birmingham, said: “It is heartening to see the economic growth in Birmingham – we are now very much on the map with global visitors thanks to an outstanding tourism offering including a packed festivals calendar.
“As global competition to attract tourists remains fierce, we have been actively promoting Birmingham more widely than ever before, targeting markets with large numbers of potential visitors, from Germany, China and India.
“We have also helped showcase some major cultural celebrations including the 25th anniversary of Birmingham Royal Ballet and 50 years of the contemporary art gallery Ikon. Major sporting activity in 2015 included the Rugby World Cup, England v Australia Ashes Test Match at Edgbaston Stadium and the AEGON Classic tennis tournament.
“Our offer was further boosted in 2015, with a focus on enhancing Birmingham’s business tourism sector. Events play a vital role in the city’s visitor economy, which hit an all-time high of £6.2 billion in 2015. By launching new spaces including the Vox Conference Centre and accommodation providers such as Park Regis – we’re ensuring we remain attractive to this valuable market.”
In recent months, Birmingham has continued to target key global visitor markets. Working closely with Birmingham Airport and tourism bodies VisitBritain and VisitEngland, the city has welcomed media delegations from countries including Japan, South Africa, India, Iceland and Belgium to showcase Birmingham’s offer on the world stage.