LONDON, April 21 (Xinhua) -- Official figures released Friday showed a new record has been set for tourists heading to Britain from overseas. The official tourism agency VisitBritain said in the first two months of 2017 there were 5.2 million inbound visits to Britain, a 6 percent rise on the first two months of 2016. The figures, based on statistics from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), also revealed that in those two months, overseas visitors spent a record 2.7 billion pounds (3.45 billion U.S. dollars), up 11 percent compared to the same period last year. Parliamentary under secretary of state for sport, tourism and heritage,Tracey Crouch said: "This record-breaking start to the year once more underlines the strength of our tourism industry." VisitBritain director Patricia Yates said: "The figures show that 2017 is off to a cracking start for inbound tourism, one of our most valuable export industries." "We must continue to build on our message of welcome and value in our high spending markets," she added. Growth at the start of the year was led by long-haul markets, including North America with 400,000 visits, up 2 percent compared to the same period last year, as well as from other parts of the world up 15 percent to 790,000 visits. There were 3.6 million visits from the EU in January and February, up 5 percent on the previous year. VisitBritain said it predicts that growth is set to continue in 2017 with 38.8 million visits and with spending reaching 23.9 billion pounds. Latest flight booking data showed that flight bookings to Britain for April to September 2017 are up 21 percent compared to the same period last year. Last year was a record-breaker for inbound tourism to Britain with 37.3 million visits, up 3.4 percent on 2015, with visitors spending 22.2 billion pounds. (1 British pound = 1.28 U.S. dollars) Enditem
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