THE number of foreign tourists visiting Yorkshire increased by 37 per cent last summer, according to figures released by Visit Britain.

And their spending in the county - including in Bradford - topped the £68 million mark.

The statistics - which are for July, August and September last year - claim Yorkshire welcomed 168,000 holidaymakers, which was a record high for the period and region.

Australians were the most prolific visitors, with 27,000 trips made from Down Under, while Americans came second with 26,600 visits.

French holidaymakers made 12,400 visits - and that number is expected to rise dramatically when this summer's figures become available, thanks to the Tour de France Grand Depart, which passed through Bradford district.

Tourist attractions in Bradford district, including the National Media Museum, Bronte Parsonage, Keighley and Worth Valley Railway and Bradford Industrial Museum, all played their part.

Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, Bradford Council's portfolio holder for employment, skills and culture, said: "The tourism figures published yesterday are really impressive particularly as this was before the Tour de France came to the region.

"Bradford boasts some of the best tourism attractions in Yorkshire including Saltaire, Haworth, Ilkley and the National Media Museum. They're a big attraction for international visitors. Tourism makes a really important contribution to the local economy and jobs so any increase is to be welcomed."

Ann Dinsdale, of the Bronte Parsonage Museum, said: "It is good news, especially for a museum like the Parsonage because we are independent. We are dependant on visitors coming here.

"And we are unique. We are the whole Bronte thing. We are the centre for anyone visiting Yorkshire for literature."

She added: "We get a lot of visitors from Japan."

Mrs Dinsdale also said the upcoming bicentenary of Charlotte Bronte in 2016 will add to the interest of Yorkshire for tourists.

A spokesman for the National Media Museum said: "Those making the trip from within Bradford, Yorkshire and the rest of the UK still make up the vast majority of visitors to the National Media Museum. And although we can’t say that we experienced a significant increase in visits from overseas tourists last summer, the really encouraging news for us is that our general admissions – the number of families and adults who visited the museum’s exhibitions and galleries in 2013/14 – were up eight per cent on the previous year, and were the highest at the museum since 2008/9.

"Bradford – with its UNESCO City of Film status, world-leading university and a fantastic array of visitor attractions including the museum – is extremely well-placed to benefit from Yorkshire’s increased profile internationally."

One of the most popular activities for those holidaying in Yorkshire is visiting famous monuments or buildings, included on 44 per cent of visits. More than a third of holiday visits to Yorkshire include at least one castle, such as Skipton.

Patricia Yates, of VisitBritain, said: “These numbers demonstrate Yorkshire’s growing appeal to international visitors and the economic delivery of inbound tourism."

Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, added: "Yorkshire's profile has never been so high, we are riding a wave of worldwide acclaim and we fully expect an influx of international and domestic visitors to flock to Yorkshire this year and for many years to come as the legacy of the Grand Départ of the Tour de France is felt in our great county. Yorkshire is very much on the must visit list for many people around the world now and we cannot wait to welcome them."