It’s official! London has welcomed over 16 million international visitors in one year for the first time in history, making it one of the most popular holiday destinations in the world.
Many attractions, including the British Museum, Natural History Museum and National Gallery, experienced big increases in visitor numbers. The British Museum, boosted by exhibitions such as ‘Life and death in Pompeii and Herculaneum’, was the most popular attraction with over 6.7 million visitors – making it their most successful year on record.
Miniature iconic London landmarks including Big Ben and the London Eye in a suitcase wrapped in British flag. Photo: ©Dollar Photo Club.
Following the hugely successful London 2012 Olympic Games and Diamond Jubilee, the city has experienced a boom in visitors, as 16.8 million people arrived in 2013, well over a million more visitors than ever before in a calendar year and up nine per cent compared to 2012. According to figures released by the Office for National Statistics’ International Passenger Survey, visitors to London spent a record £11.2 billion on shopping, hotels, restaurants and visiting attractions, over £1 billion more than in 2012.
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “These record-breaking figures are a tribute to the outstanding mix of culture, art, music and sport to be found here and more is planned. With major international sporting events including the Rugby World Cup and the Tour de France and spectacular exhibitions at the Tate and the British Museum this year, it is clear that this wonderful city will not rest on its laurels.”
Some of the major cultural events this year will be ‘Ming: 50 Years that changed China’ at the British Museum, ‘Constable: The Making of a Master’ at the V&A and ‘Rembrandt: The Final Years’ at the National Gallery.
Ming at the British Museum will include rare loans of some of the finest objects ever made in China, and will tell the story of this critical period in Chinese history. The Constable exhibition at the V&A will reveal the hidden stories of how the artist created some of his most loved and well-known paintings, while Rembrandt at the National Gallery will bring together approximately 40 paintings, 20 drawings and 30 prints by the master to offer visitors a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience the passion and innovation of his late works.
Fine architecture at the entrance to The British Museum on Great Russell Street in Bloomsbury, London, bustling with visitors on a sunny day. Photo: ©London On View.
Among many other 2014 events expected to capture worldwide attention is the commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of World War I with the re-opening of the Imperial War Museum in July and the ‘Great War in Portraits’ exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. Together with an exhibition about fictional detective Sherlock Holmes at the Museum of London and the Thames River Festival in September, this year offers a feast of cultural activities for visitors.
The positive picture for last year is reflected across Britain which welcomed nearly 33 million visitors, a six per cent increase compared to 2012, who spent £21 billion, an increase of 13 per cent compared to the previous year. Visitors from the Middle East were the highest-spending. Holidaymakers from the UAE spent £156 a day on average, followed by Egyptian travellers on £149. The French made the most visits – 3.93m – but were only the 37th biggest spenders.