More than 10 million tourists visited Cardiff in the first six months of this year – up three million on last year.
The Cardiff council figures show visitor numbers are at their highest level for at least a decade and a further rise is expected.
More than 14 million tourists came to the capital in 2009 and, following a rise of almost 50% in the first half of this year, around 20 million could have visited by the end of December.
Councillor Nigel Howells, Cardiff’s executive member for tourism, told us: “It’s fantastic news that so many people are coming to our city.
“They have been attracted by a fantastic sell, which is a combination of the St David’s shopping centre, the castle and opening of the interpretation centre, the Millennium Stadium, Swalec Stadium,
Cardiff Bay and Bute Park. We do what we do very well.”
The figures, contained in the authority’s autumn economic bulletin, were due to be presented to the economic and culture scrutiny committee today.
They have been compiled for the council using the Steam (Scarborough Tourism Economic Activity Monitor) system, so called because it was first used in Scarborough more than a decade ago.
The model measures tourism numbers through the analysis of the number of beds available in city hotels – there are around 9,400 bed spaces in the city – by checking numbers attending attractions and major events and factoring in the number of people going to tourist information centres.
According to the survey, the number of visitors to Cardiff has grown every year since 2002 and has increased by 59% since 1998, when the figure stood at just under six million.
In 2009, a total of 14.6m visitors spent £703m.
Around 13 million of those visitors were day trippers who flocked to the city-centre shops and Cardiff Bay.
Around 1.5 million people stayed in the city, with many staying more than one night, registering a total of more than three million overnight stays.
The number of tourists staying overnight has risen by 48% since 1998.
According to the latest Cardiff visitor survey carried out last year, 96% of people described their visit to Cardiff as either enjoyable or very enjoyable, with 94% rating the overall quality of their visit as either excellent or good, with 97% saying they would recommend it.
When asked what they would like to see improved, some tourists suggested signposting and cleanliness.
The economic bulletin also states 26,300 people are now employed in the tourism sector, including those in associated service and retail jobs, and by the end of this financial year, tourism-related businesses are expected to contribute £70m of the total £151m collected in business rates.
“The number of people who are staying more than one day is increasing year on year,” said Coun Howells.
“People who come to Cardiff get a lot more than they expect and find they can make their visit stretch to two, three or four days.
“I think that, as a region, Cardiff and South Wales punches above its weight, but we can always do more.”
What the tourists had to say
Catherine Massol, 45, France: “My daughter is studying in Bristol so we came here to see the Cardiff Castle and the Millennium Stadium.”
Yordi S, 34, Thailand: “What we enjoyed the most was the bus tour and the castle.”
Balaji Mohan, 30, India: “My brother said Cardiff was a great place with lots of cultural exchange, so I came to take a one-day tour.”
Hoe Chen Zhe, 40, China: “I like the castle, it has a long history.”
Where do tourists stay? (figures from 2009)
13 million: Day trippers
982,000: Stayed in serviced accommodation (hotels)
502,000: Stayed with friends or relations
69,000: Stayed in non-serviced accommodation
Where do tourists go?
Visitors, including day-trippers, surveyed by the council listed their favourite attractions as:
Cardiff Bay: 55%
City centre shops: 53%
Cardiff Castle: 51%
But 80% of overseas visitors said seeing Cardiff Castle was their priority. A total of 70% said they wanted to see Cardiff Bay.
Where do the tourists come from?
In July tourism body Visit Britain found that of the overseas visitors:
44,000 were from France
36,000 were Irish
34,000 were German
26,000 were American