PORTSMOUTH is becoming a popular destination for overseas visitors who contribute more than £40m to the local economy every year.
Last year the city welcomed 135,000 foreign tourists for overnight stays, an increase of over 30,000 since 2010, with numbers expected to rise.
Overall the tourism industry in Portsmouth supports about12,500 jobs and pumps £700m into the local economy, something the council's head of leisure, Cllr Steve Pitt, is proud of. He said: ‘We are very pleased with the development of the visitor economy which is very important to the city with around 13,000 local jobs connected to leisure and tourism, making it one of the largest employers.
'So it is not only fantastic that people are coming to Portsmouth but it is also great they are supporting local jobs and the economy.'
Jacquie Shaw, from the National Museum of the Royal Navy, believed interest in the city's naval history was growing. ‘We had a record-breaking year last year with over 950,000 visitors to the dockyards,’ she said.
'Although we don't record the number of foreign visitors we have definitely seen a rise in visitors from other countries. We work hard to raise our national and international profile, for example appearing in television documentaries. People are intrigued by what they see.
'I think we will most definitely keep attracting visitors. Portsmouth should rightly be proud of its strong naval heritage.'
The figures are provided by the Office for National Statistics.
Cllr Nigel Smith, chief executive officer of Tourism South East, said: 'Since the EU referendum in 2016 there has been a short-term positive impact due to the drop in the exchange rate which has made Britain cheaper to overseas visitors and overseas holidays more expensive to the British increasing the “staycation” effect. In the south east, we have seen record numbers of visitors each year since the vote from overseas especially from Europe, the USA and China although this has been part of a longer term trend since the London Olympics in 2012.
'However, there are concerns about the impact of Brexit, mainly centred around the loss of overseas labour from the EU which is prevalent in the hospitality sector and already evident, and the uncertainty on freedom to travel, aviation agreements and border and visa controls which may make Britain appear less welcoming or slow down entry into the country.'
Cllr Pitt added: 'It will be a challenge to make sure tourism in Portsmouth continues to grow if things don't work out the way we want them to with the free flow of people coming in after Brexit.
'This is something we are looking at and of course we are working with Portsmouth International Port as well.'
Statistics from Tourism South East also showed that Portsmouth benefits from rising numbers of UK visitors and day trips.
In 2015 more than 9m people from both the UK and overseas visited the city, a 16 per cent increase since 2008.