DOWNTON Abbey, Bicester Village and Oxford University have helped add millions to Oxfordshire’s tourism income.

New figures from Tourism South East show the county saw tourist spending increase from £1.5bn in 2007 to £1.7bn in 2011.

Most of the money was spent in Oxford, which saw a 17.45 per cent increase in five years – from £604m in 2007 to £710m in 2011.

Visit Oxfordshire director Susi Golding said: “The new figures show Oxfordshire is a fantastic place to visit.

“UK residents are not going as far afield as they used to because of the recession and the country is quite lucky because there is a good exchange rate, so we are good value for overseas visitors.”

She said attractions such as Oxford’s historic buildings and universities, Bicester Village and film locations such as Blenheim Palace and Bampton, where ITV period drama Downton Abbey is filmed, have all helped boost the county’s tourism.

Witney Chamber of Commerce chairman Lesley Semaine said Downton Abbey, along with Witney MP David Cameron becoming Prime Minister, had helped put West Oxfordshire on the map for tourists.

She said: “It certainly has not done our area any harm and I am sure it has done us a lot of good.”

West Oxfordshire saw a 15.93 per cent increase in visitor spending in the five years to 2011, rising from £225m in 2007 to £260m in 2011.

Ms Semaine added: “We are in one of the most attractive parts of the country and have so many attractions.

“The Cotswolds and places like Blenheim Palace bring so many tourists in, and that encourages all the surrounding villages and towns.”

Blenheim Palace spokesman Hannah Payne said: “We are proud to be part of the thriving tourism trend in our region and we certainly hope to see this trend continue following the hugely positive public relations surrounding the UK during the London 2012 Olympics, and the increase of international visitors expected in 2013 and beyond.”

Richard Langridge, West Oxfordshire District Council cabinet member for local economy, communities and culture, said: “We cannot say enough how important tourism is to West Oxfordshire’s economy, and the latest figures from Tourism South East emphasise this even further.

“The last few years have been tough for all local businesses, and not least tourism businesses, and those involved in the industry should feel very proud that the study has found that West Oxfordshire is continuing to do well during difficult economic times.”