London is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, offering attractions such as the London Eye, the Royal Palaces, the Tower of London and high streets packed with high-end retail shops and gourmet restaurants. With the vote on Brexit back in 2016, there was some doubt over whether the city, and on a broader scale the United Kingdom, would continue to be a haven for tourism.
However, the hospitality and tourism industries can rest at ease as there has in fact been a year-on-year increase in inbound visitors to the city since then, in part due to the lower value of the pound. It is estimated that 2018 will end up bringing in a record number of tourists, with an estimated 4.4% increase from 2017.
The city has already seen one record to far this year as it had the highest number of tourists from the GCC during the first quarter of 2018, according to the UK Tourism Board. Figures showed that there were 161,000 visitors from the region, which is a 2% increase over the same period in 2017. GCC tourists also spend more and stay longer on average than other international visitors. In terms of overall volume of visitors, however, France ranks the highest, followed closely by the United States.
Where do all these visitors go when in London? There really is no shortage of places to visit, given the vast array of cultural and shopping destinations the city has to offer. As per the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA), which tracks the footfall at top tourist spots across the United Kingdom, the British Museum was the most visited attraction in London in 2017. In fact, of the top 10 buildings visited, 7 were museums while the remaining 3 were historical and cultural landmarks.
London’s tourism industry is a significant part of the city’s overall economy, representing 11.6 of the city’s GDP and 9 percent across the United Kingdom. It accounts for almost 55% of visitor spending in the UK, with roughly 1 in 7 professionals in the city employed by the tourism sector in some capacity. Looking to the future, London Mayor Sadiq Khan unveiled a bold new vision for the city’s tourism industry last year, which is expected to bring in an additional 1 million US visitors annually by the year 2025 and increase the tourist volume from India and China by upwards of 90%.