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10:26am on Sunday, 8th August, 2010:

Top Destinations


This was the "graphic of the week" in today's Observer:

Uh? Inverness is the fourth-top destination for visitors to the UK? I realise that its airport is probably the gateway to the whole of the highlands of Scotland, but really, do more people visit Inverness than visit Oxford or Cambridge? And surely if Glasgow is there, it must be on the basis of its business visitors, not its tourist visitors, otherwise Manchester would beat it: that being the case, where's Birmingham?

Well, the graphic helpfully points to a web site where the data hails from: www.visitbritain.org. Checking this out, actually it seems they get their information in turn from the Office of National Statistics, but hey, let's trust them that they copied it accurately. Click a few links and "Excel table showing the 20 most visited towns and cities by visitors from overseas" looks to be the one to use. Sure enough, up comes a spreadsheet containing "Top towns for 'staying visits' by inbound visitors".

It doesn't look anything like what's in the graphic. Here are the top 20 towns for 2009 (provisional data, but they're much the same as for 2008):

  1. London
  2. Edinburgh
  3. Manchester
  4. Birmingham
  5. Glasgow
  6. Liverpool
  7. Bristol
  8. Oxford
  9. Cambridge
  10. Brighton/Hove
  11. Cardiff
  12. Inverness
  13. Nottingham
  14. Leeds
  15. Aberdeen
  16. York
  17. Newcastle-upon-Tyne
  18. Bath
  19. Canterbury
  20. Reading

Now that does actually look plausible.

I'm not persuaded it's the right table, though, because of the figures. The number of thousands of visits to Inverness in the years 2006 to 2009 are 252, 275, 197 and 248, all of which are above the graphic's "average" of 180 for the period.

There are other spreadsheets on the visitbritain.org site, but they seem in tune with these figures (Visits to Towns — Detailed Data, for example). Gawd knows where the "graphic of the week" originated.

Interestingly, of the top 20 most-visited UK cities, I've never personally been to Manchester, Liverpool, Cardiff or Inverness — and I live here.

Oh, hold on, I think I may have changed trains in Manchester once in about 1977 when I was going to Preston for a games convention.

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Copyright © 2010 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).