In tourism terms, 2013 turns out to have been a bumper year, with record numbers of foreign nationals coming to the UK and spending record amounts of money, and British residents’ enthusiasm for travel back to pre-recession levels.

The figures, taken from the annual International Passenger Survey and published by the government’s Office for National Statistics, make extraordinary reading.

Britons made 58.5 million trips abroad last year, and spent nearly £35 billion, roughly on a par with the peaks reached before the economic meltdown. Overseas residents made 32.8 million trips to the UK, and spent £21 billion – both figures are the highest since records began 43 years ago.

UK residents spend an average of £57 a day while abroad, while international visitors to our shores cough up a healthy average of £85 a day. Visitors from the US spend the most – £105 a day on average – and contribute an estimated £2.5 billion to the UK economy.

So far, so very good indeed but, from a local and regional perspective, there may be less cause for celebration.

British travellers heading overseas, whether on holiday, on business, or to visit friends or family, clearly aren’t spending their money here. And it appears that inbound visitors, while they are spending plenty, aren’t doing so in our neck of the woods.

For foreigners, London is understandably the big attraction. Last year, overseas visitors spent a massive £11.3 billion in the capital, more than half the national total. Outside London, cities like Edinburgh and Glasgow, Bristol and Bath, and Cambridge and Canterbury, are all firm favourites.

However, of the top 20 “most-visited” destinations in the UK, only two – Southampton and the Brighton and Hove conurbation – are on the south coast. Inland, Reading is on the list. Inverness is on the list. Bournemouth, Poole, Dorchester – they don’t get a look-in.

A colleague, chatting recently to a London-based high-flyer, was told that Londoners looking for a seaside break go to Brighton. Bournemouth, she said, “isn’t on our radar”.

It is not a question of accessibility, it’s a question of awareness. Visitors – whether they’re from overseas or from other parts of the UK – are not flocking to Dorset because they don’t like it. They’re not flocking to Dorset because they don’t know about it – it is not on their radar.

Clearly there is work to be done, and potentially very profitable work at that. At the risk of sounding like a stuck record, it is high time we pooled our promotional efforts to put our county – all of it – on the map.

No one town or village can achieve that, but by working together we stand a much better chance of success. Not only must the public and private sectors work together, but businesses, whether they are directly involved in tourism or not, must work together as well.

British and international tourists between them spent £56 billion on their travels last year. For all our sakes, it’s high time we got a slice of that action.

Editor’s note: For further information, please contact Simon Scarborough on 07801 571357 or at