Stronger sterling hits China and US markets

International forward air bookings to London for the first half of 2018 are 3.5% down, year-on-year – with a large 10.1% fall currently projected in the second quarter.

Flight booking analysts ForwardKeys found a “significant decline” in the number of Chinese visitors heading to the UK capital, down 5.4% for the first half of this year.

During Chinese New Year in mid-February, Chinese visitor arrivals were down 13.3% on 2017.

Figures also showed that arrivals from the US were lagging 7.2%.

Meanwhile, other top European Union destinations – such as Paris, Rome, Amsterdam and Barcelona – look set for more visitor arrivals.

ForwardKeys, which predicts future travel patterns by analysing 17 million booking transactions a day, said London’s decline began during the last quarter of 2017.

Its data found that terror attacks had a moderate effect when compared to the fluctuation in the British pound.

Sterling’s strengthening position against the US dollar and Chinese yuan coincides with a reduced visitor outlook from those countries whose holiday spending money suffered a diminishing value in the UK.

The outlook showed that for arrivals in London from outside Europe, Australia and New Zealand lead the forward bookings field, ahead 16% and 16.8% respectively.

Arrivals from Argentina, Brazil, India, Nigeria and Russia also look “encouraging”, said ForwardKeys.

The number of Indian travellers to London is currently 5.6% ahead of last year, with April traditionally the high season for the market.

Olivier Jager, ForwardKeys chief executive and co-founder, said: “Our findings partly demonstrate the impact that currency fluctuations can have on a destination. US and Chinese visitors took advantage when sterling was weaker, now they’re reacting the other way as the pound recovers.”

Pictured: A Chinese couple in Windsor. ©VisitBritain/Ben Selway