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Britain pioneered the development of a professional tourism industry. Around 1.5 million people are employed in the industry in Britain, which contributes ₤30,000 million annually to the economy – about 5 per cent of GDP. Britain is one of the world’s six leading tourist destinations and by the year 2000 tourism was expected to be the biggest industry in the world.
Between 1980 and 1990 the number of overseas visits to Britain increased by 50 per cent. In 1993 over 19 million overseas visitors came to Britain, spending ₤9,200 million. Business travel accounts for about a fifth of all overseas tourism revenue. An estimated 64 per cent of visitors came from Europe and 17 per cent North America. Britain’s tourism attractions include theatres, museums, art galleries and historic houses, as well as shopping, sports and business facilities.
Domestic tourism was valued at ₤12,400 million in 1992. Around one-half of British residents taking their main holiday in Britain choose a traditional seaside resort. Short breaks, worth about ₤2,000 million in 1992, make up an increasingly significant part of the market, with shopping accounting for about a third of all expenditure on day trips. Scotland has several skiing resorts.
The largest hotel business in Britain is Forte, which has 344 hotels in the country. At the other end of the scale, numerous guest houses and small hotels have fewer than 20 rooms. Holiday camps offering full board, self-catering centres and holiday caravans are run by Butlins and Pontins; Center Parcs are enclosed holiday centres with swimming pools and other leisure facilities which are not affected by the vagaries of the British climate. Cuisine from virtually every country in the world is available in restaurants in London and elsewhere in Britain.
Most British holiday-makers wishing to go abroad buy ‘package holidays’ from travel agencies, where the cost covers transport and accommodation. The most popular package holiday destinations are Spain, France and Greece. Long-haul holidays to countries like the United States and Australia are becoming more popular as air fares come down. Winter skiing holidays to resorts in Austria, France, Italy and Switzerland and other countries continue to attract large numbers of Britons.
There are around 7,200 travel agencies in Britain. Although most travel agents are small businesses, there are a few very large firms, such as Lunn Poly and Thomas Cook, which have hundreds of branches.
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