London more visited in 2013 than in Olympics year

By Melodie Michel

- Last updated on GMT

London experienced a record number of visits in 2013
London experienced a record number of visits in 2013

Related tags: Cent increase, United kingdom, Tourism, London

London welcomed 16.8m international visitors in 2013, surpassing a 2012 performance boosted by the Olympics and the Queen’s Jubilee.

This is over a million more people than London has ever seen, and a nine per cent increase over 2012.

Not only did the capital attract more visitors, but they also spent more money on shopping, hotels, restaurants and sightseeing – a record £11.3bn according to figures released today by the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) International Passenger Survey. This is over £1bn more than in 2012.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “These record-breaking figures are a tribute to the outstanding mix of culture, art, music and sport to be found here and more is planned. With major international sporting events including the Rugby World Cup and the Tour de France and spectacular exhibitions at the Tate and the British Museum this year, it is clear that this wonderful city will not rest on its laurels.”

Attractions like the British Museum, the Natural History Museum and the National Gallery experienced record visitor numbers, and are planning to capitalise on that momentum in 2014.

Danny Homan, communications and development director of Historic Royal Palaces, said: “We attribute the uplift in visitor numbers to strong inbound tourism following the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics​ in 2012, and also to the enduring popularity of London’s extraordinary heritage.”

Strong growth across the UK

Overnight visits to the rest of England grew by 6.1 per cent to 13.6m, and Scotland and Wales both recorded growth after falls in 2012 (9.8 per cent and 3.5 per cent respectively).

Britain as a whole welcomed nearly 33m visitors, 5.6 per cent more than in 2012, who spent £21bn, a 12.7 per cent increase. The number of nights spent in the UK also grew 6.6 per cent in 2013 to a total of 245.3 million overnight stays. 2014 should also be a good year, with early figures for the first two months showing a nine per cent increase in tourist numbers across Britain.

Mike Saul, head of hospitality and leisure at Barclays, commented: “Today’s figures continue to underline the UK’s position as a world-class destination for overseas visitors as numbers and spend rise to record levels.  The good news is predicted to get better with new Barclays research forecasting overseas tourist spend in the UK growing by 34 per cent to £27bn by 2017.  Central to that increase are the emerging economies as, while tourists from the USA, France and Germany will continue to be the highest spenders, visitors from China, UAE and Russia will outstrip them in growth terms."

The ONS report released today pointed out that 2013 saw the highest number of international visits to the UK since the survey began in 1961, as well as the highest recorded spending.  London’s previous best year was in 2006 when the city welcomed 15.6 million visitors.

Visits from North America continued to decline, 0.3 per cent down on 2012, but spending from the region increased by 2.9 per cent. Visits from Europe and 'other countries' grew by 5.7 per cent and 9.3 per cent respectively with a spending increase of 10.5 per cent and 21.6 per cent.

Holidays remain the main reason for visits to the UK, accounting for 12.7 million visits – up 6.4 per cent from 2012. Business visits and visits to friends and family were also up, by seven per cent and 4.2 per cent respectively.

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