20/05/2014 08:30 BST | Updated 19/07/2014 06:59 BST

The Inexorable Rise of Regional Tourism

The latest tourism figures are in and they are a cause for celebration. One of VisitBritain's key objectives is to boost the regional spread of inbound tourism to ensure its economic benefits are felt all over Britain. Last year saw that happen, with every nation across the country welcoming an increase in both visitor numbers and tourist spending.

International visits to Wales rose by more than 30,000 to a total of 900,000 visits - equating to an extra £8 million for the Welsh economy. Scotland saw a near 10% rise to 2.4 million visits and London saw an 8.6% increase to 16.8 million visits, while the Rest of England saw numbers go up by 6.1% to 13.6 million visits.

The spending figures are even more impressive. Last year, spending by international tourists in London grew 11.7% to £11.3 billion - a record breaking year. Scotland (up 19.9% to £1.7 billion) and the Rest of England (up 15.4% to £7.1 billion) grew faster still.

When you add it all together it makes 2013 the best ever year for total inbound tourism, with spending up 12.7% to £21 billion. This makes tourism one of Britain's top export industries and certainly gives our new Culture Secretary, Sajid Javid - whose remit includes tourism - a positive foundation to work from in a sector which is clearly delivering jobs and foreign currency earnings for the UK.

Hosting a successful Olympic and Paralympic Games has changed the world's perceptions of Britain. London is indeed our shining light and one of the greatest capital cities in the world, but post-Olympics, 75% of respondents to the Anholt-GfK Nation Brands Index agreed that they wanted to see more of Britain.

Investing in tourism is a proven means of attracting international visitors and increasing the amount they spend in local economies. This in turn creates and supports jobs - lots of them. Tourism was responsible for a third of the UK's net new jobs between 2010 and 2012 and the sector currently employs 3.1 million people, which is 9.6% of all those in work.

Critically, tourism employs a larger proportion of young people than other economic sectors - and at a wide range of skill levels. Of those employed in tourism, 28% are aged 16-24, compared with 12% in the wider economy. Young people who begin work in the tourism sector gain invaluable real world experience and learn the skills that enable them to develop a career, either in tourism or elsewhere in the economy. Also, because tourism is an industry of small businesses in multiple locations, young people can progress quickly to managerial roles, getting real responsibility at an early age.

Tourism reaches parts of the country other industries cannot easily reach, particularly in old coastal resorts and in the South West of England. Further investment in tourism by local government has the potential to develop and transform prospects for these areas. New developments create local pride and benefit local communities and, with VisitBritain's help, can attract visitors from around the world.