London Breaks Visitor Record With Nearly 17 Million Arrivals

Nearly two years after the Olympics and Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee brought the eyes of the world to London, the appeal has clearly not faded: The city is reporting that it has welcomed more than 16 million international visitors in one year for the first time in history, making it one of the most popular travel destinations in the world. A full 16.8 million people arrived in 2013—over a million more visitors than ever before in a calendar year and up nine percent compared to 2012.

According to the International Passenger Survey (IPS), London’s previous best year was in 2006 when the city saw 15.6 million visitors.

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Tourism sectors

  • There was a record number of Holiday visits at 12.726 million, an increase of 6.4 percent, with spending at £8.448bn, up 12.0 percent.

  • Business visits stood at 7.945 million, up 7.0 percent but still down on the 9 million achieved in 2006.  Spending by those visiting for Business reached £5.014bn, up 11.4 percent on 2012.
  • Visit to friends and relatives) visits increased 4.2 percent to 9.327 million but this falls short of the record established in 2008 of 9.727 million.  VFR visits generated £4.524bn in spending in 2013, up 14.6 percent on the year before.

Attractions in London

Many attractions, including the British Museum, Natural History Museum and National Gallery, have also reported significant increases in visitor numbers. The British Museum, boosted by exhibitions such as ‘Life and death in Pompeii and Herculaneum’, was the most popular attraction with over 6.7 million visitors – making it their most successful year on record.

According to figures released today by the Office for National Statistics’ International Passenger Survey, visitors spent a record £11.2 billion on shopping, hotels, restaurants and visiting attractions, over £1 billion more than in 2012.
Some of the major cultural events this year will be ‘Ming: 50 Years that changed China’ at the British Museum, ‘Constable: The Making of a Master’ at the V&A and ‘Rembrandt: The Final Years’ at the National Gallery.
Ming at the British Museum will include rare loans of some of the finest objects ever made in China and tell the story of this critical period in Chinese history. The Constable exhibition will reveal the hidden stories of how the artist created some of his most loved and well-known paintings, while Rembrandt at the National Gallery will bring together approximately 40 paintings, 20 drawings and 30 prints by the master to offer visitors a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience the passion and innovation of his late works.

Other 2014 events expected to capture worldwide attention include the commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of World War I with the re-opening of the Imperial War Museum in July and the ‘Great War in Portraits’ exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery.  An exhibition about fictional detective Sherlock Holmes is planned for the Museum of London, and the Thames River Festival will be held in September.
The Historic Royal Palaces, including the Tower of London, Kensington Palace and Hampton Court Palace, has also celebrated a record breaking year by welcoming over four million visitors for the first time after putting on successful exhibitions like ‘Fashion Rules’ and ‘Secrets of the Royal Bed Chamber’.

Beyond London

The positive picture for last year is reflected across Britain which welcomed nearly 33 million visitors—a six percent increase compared to 2012—who spent £21 billion, an increase of 13 percent compared to the previous year. Early figures for the first two months of 2014 also show there was a nine percent increase in tourist numbers across Britain.