The 17.4 million visits to the city in 2014 was up 3.5 per cent from the previous record of 16.8 million visits in 2013, the Office for National Statistics International Passenger Survey (IPS) found.
Visitors boosted London’s economy by £11.8bn in 2014, compared to £11.5bn in 2013 – an increase of 3 per cent.
The uplift in visitor numbers is reflected across the UK, which welcomed nearly 34.4 million visitors, a 5.2 per cent increase compared to 2013. International tourists spent £21.8bn, up 2.8 per cent on the previous 12 months.
A separate survey compiled by London & Partners – the promotional company that runs VisitLondon.com – found that 58 million people from the UK and overseas visited the city’s 40 most popular tourist attractions last year, up 4 per cent on 2013.
According to London & Partners, the city proved to be one of the world’s biggest tourist magnets, staging a diverse and eclectic mix of exhibitions and events.
It highlighted events such as Henri Matisse: The Cut Outs at the Tate Modern, Ming: 50 years that Changed China at the British Museum, Anselm Kiefer at the Royal Academy, Sherlock Holmes at the Museum of London, the Tour de France Grand Départ, the Wimbledon Tennis Championships and the Chelsea Flower Show, as all being an attractive draw for tourists.
To help continue that growth, later this year VisitLondon.com – in partnership with the GREAT Britain Campaign – will launch its second annual international campaign to promote cultural activities happening across the capital.
The campaign will include blockbuster exhibitions, performances, and festivals, during the upcoming Autumn Season.
Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: “These terrific new figures confirm that record numbers of tourists are spending record amounts of dosh in our amazing city.
“Our status as the number one destination in the world is surely beyond any doubt, and with incredible attractions like the Rugby World Cup heading our way, we look forward to welcoming many thousands more visitors to London.”
Driven by the 100th Anniversary of World War I, London & Partners said one of the most significant trends was an increase in people visiting military exhibitions – which rose by 22 per cent to 3.6 million.
It added that more than five million people visited the Tower of London’s poppy display, Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red.
Gordon Innes, chief executive of London & Partners, said: “London continues to attract record numbers of international visitors, injecting billions into the capital’s economy each year.
“Royal occasions, like the arrival of Princess Charlotte, combined with London’s heritage, attractions and world-leading cultural offer, is expected to attract many more millions from the UK and abroad, continuing the growth of international visitor numbers in 2015.”
Linton Wadsworth, from Radisson Blu Edwardian London, added: “London is a booming world city with a tourism offer that is diversifying and improving year-on-year.
“We are committed to helping drive forward the city’s tourism economy, through ongoing investment and continuous innovation across our properties.”