OXFORDSHIRE’S main tourism body is ramping up its strategy to boost the county’s £1.86bn tourist industry by focusing on international visitors.

Despite total tourism expenditure in the county rising by three per cent in 2014, the latest available figures, overseas tourists remain significantly untapped in terms of their spending potential.

Hayley Beer-Gamage, chief executive of Experience Oxfordshire, said: “The overseas visitor market was worth less than five per cent of these figures but they accounted for more than 40 per cent of expenditure. Overseas visitors is where we will push.”

Tourism in Oxfordshire is still heavily skewed towards day-trippers, with 24.2m visiting the county in 2014. This compares with a much lower 2.6m visitors who stayed for one night or more.

Of the “overnight” visitors, 628,000 – or 24 per cent – were from overseas, with 1.99 million from the UK.

However, the non-UK overnight visitors spent disproportionately more money than their domestic counterparts, accounting for £287m – or 43 per cent – of the total £660m in overnight expenditure in 2014.

Overall, the non-UK overnight tourists accounted for only two per cent of total visitors to the county.

Ms Beer-Gamage took over the reins of Experience Oxfordshire early last year after being director of tourism services at West Oxfordshire District Council and quickly moved to rebrand and reposition the organisation.

Today, she will be selling Oxfordshire as a prime destination to national and international travel operators at an English Heritage Cities event in Greenwich.

This follows the 13 heritage cities, including Oxford, recently receiving £120,000 in funding (half from government, half from the participating cities) to promote themselves to global markets.

Last September, Experience Oxfordshire received a government grant from UK Trade & Investment to sell Oxfordshire to the US during a three-day campaign with VisitBritain.

The CEO said the organisation had conducted “a lot of data work” to identify opportunities. One data point that stood out was a 16 per cent drop in the number of annual US visitors to Oxfordshire, to 72,000, in the decade to 2014.

She said that while the decline was due to “a mixture” of reasons, in particular the recession and subsequent fall in consumer confidence, it was also partly the result of a lack of cohesive planning in the local tourism industry.

“Destinations are very competitive,” she said. “Oxfordshire hasn’t been as co-ordinated as it could have been.”

She said that prior to the establishment of Experience Oxfordshire in 2014, “people had been working in silos”.

Experience Oxfordshire is about to announce three new ambassadors, which it signed up last week, and which will bring the total number of ambassadors to nine.

Ms Beer-Gamage said the ambassador programme, which was launched last April 2015, was an important avenue to increase investment in Experience Oxfordshire, a public-private partnership.

She said her election as chairman of the Tourism Society, an international professional membership body, would “open further doors for Experience Oxfordshire”.