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Britain sees record visitor numbers on Brexit-hit pound

[LONDON] Britain welcomed a record number of foreign visitors last year as the Brexit-hit pound boosted their purchasing power, official data showed Thursday.

Some 37.6 million travellers flocked to the country in 2016, up four per cent from the previous year, the Office for National Statistics said in a report.

Last year's figures mark the sixth successive annual increase in visitor numbers.

Holidaymakers and other foreign visitors are also spending their money more freely in Britain, parting with £22.5 billion (S$40.56 billion) in 2016, which was a two-per cent increase from a year earlier.

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The country's shock decision to exit the European Union - in a referendum held on June 23, 2016 - sent the pound slumping dramatically against the euro and the dollar. However, it has since recovered some ground.

The weaker pound makes British goods and services cheaper and therefore more attractive for foreign visitors holding stronger currencies.

Tourists made up the largest proportion of foreign visitors, with 13.9 million travelling to Britain last year, followed by those seeing relatives (11.6 million) and business travellers (9.2 million).

The French were the most frequent visitors (4 million), followed by Americans (3.5 million) and then Germans (3.3 million), according to the statistics agency.

London was by far the top destination, attracting 19.1 million visitors, while the Scottish capital Edinburgh came in a distant second with 1.7 million.

The northern city of Manchester, famed globally for its football, came in third with 1.2 million visitors last year.