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Cheap sterling brings UK tourism boost but food imports suffer

  • Visitors to UK at all time high.
  • Little evidence that terror attacks putting off visitors.
  • Food and drink trade deficit widening.
Frontal view on Buckingham Palace.
Pawei Libera | LightRocket | Getty Images
Frontal view on Buckingham Palace.

A fall in the value of the pound has seen a spike in the number of tourists visiting the shores of Britain.

The office for national statistics (ONS) said the U.K. welcomed a record 10.75 million foreigners in the second quarter of 2017, the highest level since records began back in 1980.

Sterling's fall against both the euro and the dollar since the EU referendum vote in June 2106 has made the cost of a visit to the U.K. cheaper.

The ONS said visits from the United States were 29 percent higher at 1.47 million in the 3 months to June with little evidence that terror attacks in London or Manchester had deterred holidaymakers.

The dataset added that visitors spent £6.23 billion ($8.03 bn) in the three months to June.

Perhaps surprising was news that a record 19.09 million Britons traveled overseas trips during the same period, another all-time recorded high.

Food imports suffer

Meanwhile, separate data published Friday showed that the UK's food and drink trade deficit, the difference between how much the U.K. imports and exports, widened 16 percent to £12.4bn over the first half of 2016.

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) report said sterling weakness had led to an increase in the cost of many imported ingredients and raw materials.

Despite the widening gap, the report toasted the rise in food and drinks exports, noting that sales abroad of U.K. food and drink in the first six months of 2017 grew to £10.2bn, up 8.5% on the same period last year.

Justin Sullivan - Getty Images

The top 3 export destinations remain Ireland, France and the United States while the top 3 items by value were Whisky, Salmon and Beer.

Whisky exports accounted for the largest sum by far, totalling an estimated £1.8 billion in the six months to June.

Salmon sales leapt by more than 53 percent by value to a total of £408 million.