Published on : Sunday, October 13, 2013
The record was welcomed by tourism bosses, who said central London shops, hotels, restaurants and attractions are all enjoying an unprecedented boom fuelled by foreign visitors. Spending was up 12 per cent at £4.9 billion, also a record.
It bucks the trend seen in some other Olympic host cities where tourism has dipped in the years after their Games ended. Mayor Boris Johnson said the tourism record was a direct “legacy” of the extraordinary image of London seen by billions of viewers during what were hailed as the most successful Olympics and Paralympics ever.
He said: “Last summer the palpable buzz of this great city was beamed across the globe. Since then London’s draw has gone from strength to strength with billions of pounds of international investment and huge regeneration projects continuing apace.
“These fantastic tourism figures not only support new jobs and growth in London’s economy but are yet another testament to the Olympic legacy.”
If the trend of the first six months continues, the barrier of 16 million visitors in a year will be smashed for the first time — putting London ahead of Bangkok as the world’s most popular destination for foreign travellers.
London is currently second, just behind Bangkok’s 15.98 million. Third-placed Paris attracts about 14 million and New York 11.5 million.
Besides the Olympics, other London lures include the huge global popularity of the new generation of royals, led by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their baby son Prince George.
Improvements to the West End, particularly Regent Street, and blockbuster cultural events such as the Pompeii exhibition at the British Museum have also provided a boost.
Gordon Innes, chief executive of the Mayor’s tourism body London & Partners, said: “We’re set to have a bumper 2013, with more international visitors coming to the capital than during the landmark Olympic year, which attracted 15.5 million international visitors.”
The first-half total of 7.92 million was made up of 5.293 million from Europe, 1.082 million from North America and 1.544 million from the rest of the world — including fast-growing and high-spending markets such as China, India and the Middle East.
Bosses at the top tourist attractions said they were seeing huge crowds of foreign visitors.