‘Blockbuster’ events boost London tourism

London welcomed a record number of overseas visits in 2016, partly thanks to major exhibitions, such as Hockney at the Royal Academy and Rolling Stones at the Saatchi Gallery.

Other high-profile events also attracted tourists, such as Great Fire 350, which saw the burning of a replica City of London from 1666 to commemorate the anniversary of the Great Fire of London.

Office for National Statistics figures show that overseas tourists made 19.1 million visits to the city in 2016, up 2.6% on 2015.

Visitors spent £11.9 billion on hotels, restaurants and attractions, which was a slight decrease of 0.4% year-on-year to 2015.

The last three months of the year were especially strong as overseas tourists took of advantage of London offering better value for money than before.

A record five million visitors came during the last quarter of 2016, up 8% year-on-year, and spending rose 3.7%.

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, said: “I am delighted that more people than ever before are choosing to visit London, immersing themselves in all that our great city has to offer including an unbeatable array of restaurants, museums, shops and theatres. This is further evidence that London is open and has an appeal that clearly extends across the globe.”

Separate data from Forward Keys, a company which records overseas travel agent bookings to London, suggests that in the first six months of 2017 there has been a 10% increase in overseas travellers coming to London.

Major events and exhibitions in 2017 will continue to attract overseas visitors, such as American Dream, Pop to Present at the British Museum; Basquiat: Boom for Real coming to the Barbican in September; and Harry Potter: A History of Magic at the British Library this autumn (pictured,  picture credit: Tony Antonio).