Big rise in London tourism helps boost capital’s economy

Tourist numbers are now surpassing those seen in the year before the pandemic, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

Tourists outside Westminster Abbey
Tourists outside Westminster Abbey

London’s tourist economy is “roaring back” to life as analysis reveals a surge in post-pandemic visitor numbers.

Research collated by City Hall shows how flight bookings and international arrivals to the capital have increased substantially compared with 2019. Some two million more international visitors are forecast to arrive in London in 2023 compared with last year, which is projected to produce an extra £674million in revenue.

The analysis comes after London’s music and film industry already enjoyed a hugely successful July, thanks to a run of popular concerts and the release of Barbie and Oppenheimer in cinemas.

Flight bookings for the first half of 2023 are well above the average for 2019, with international arrivals up 19% in April and 15% in May, compared with those months in 2019.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “Our capital is roaring back with tourists from around the world joining Londoners in enjoying all of the fantastic attractions on offer.

“Culture is at the heart of our city, and I’m delighted that our world-renowned theatres, venues, galleries and museums are helping to drive our recovery.”

At the start of July, more than one million people attended live music shows in one week, while later in the month, cinemas enjoyed the busiest weekend for ticket sales in four years with the much-anticipated premieres of Barbie and Oppenheimer.

Dr Alex Burch, Natural History Museum’s director of public programmes, said: “The Natural History Museum is proud to be the UK’s most popular indoor attraction for the second year in a row, welcoming over 4.6 million visitors into our galleries in 2022 to connect with and take action for nature.

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“We then welcomed one of our biggest exhibits yet, the star of our new exhibition and one of the biggest creatures that we know of to walk the Earth, Patagotitan mayorum.

“The buzz around Titanosaur: Life as the Biggest Dinosaur has been sensational and now over halfway into its run, visitors continue to get up close to this prehistoric beast, touching the cast and learning more about the giant animals we share the planet with today, and the need to protect them.”

Transport for London reported last week that almost 200 million Elizabeth Line journeys have taken place since the service opened in May 2022 – bringing a major boost to entertainment venues, leisure and cultural hotspots across the capital.

The mayor’s ‘Let’s Do London’ campaign – designed to encourage Londoners and visitors back to the capital’s attractions – is separately thought to have brought in an extra £346m and 850,000 more overnight visitors to the city.

A report this month by tourism body Visit Britain meanwhile found that London’s attractions in 2022 enjoyed a 141% rise in visitor numbers compared with 2021 – by far the highest growth seen in any UK region. The report surveyed 85 key attractions across the capital to find the visitor growth rate.

A separate analysis found that London was the top city in Europe for overnight stays in 2022, with an increase of 131.5%.

Bernard Donoghue OBE, director of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA), said the capital “has bounced back, and these astonishing visitor figures for London’s favourite attractions show that clearly”.

A number of major London events are still to come this summer, including Notting Hill Carnival, one of the biggest and oldest street parties in the world.

All Points East Festival in Victoria Park later this month is set to be headlined by Stormzy, The Strokes and Dermot Kennedy, while in September, London Fashion Week will showcase the best international and local talent in design and creativity.

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