Americans back on top as London’s biggest visitors

River Tower Br ShardAmericans were London’s leading overseas visitors last year after 8 years of being outnumbered by the French.

The surge from the States helped make 2015 another record-breaking year for the capital as, predicted by Urbs.  Data from Visit Britain shows that the capital welcomed 18.5 million people from around the world for leisure, education, business and family visits.

2.1 million of those visitors, or 11.5%, came from America, narrowly beating the French, although visitor numbers from France were also slightly up on 2014. Polish visitors pushed into the top 10 for the first time in 2015.

tourist data graph .001-2

As well as being the largest group, Americans also spent the most. Of the £11.9 billion the city generated from tourism, nearly a tenth came from American wallets alone last year.

London’s highest spending European visitors were French, with a total spend of £762 million. But on an individual basis the big spenders are from the Gulf countries of the Middle East. While the average London visitor spent £640, those from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia spent nearly five times that amount.

The ease of a hop across the Channel or a trip through the Tunnel means the French still account for more of London’s short-stayers than anyone else. 1.2 million French people came to the city for ‘le weekend’ and a trip lasting one to three nights.

The longest stayers came from Australia – 1.57 million of them stuck around for at least two weeks following presumably long-haul journeys for most of them. Despite the Australian’s extended time here, they trail other countries closer to home on tourist numbers and expenditure, including Germany, Italy and Spain.

As home to most of the UK’s biggest tourist attractions, it is no surprise that London’s main draw for visitors continues to be as a holiday destination. Half of those who came to the city from abroad did so for leisure. Internationally, London also remains a popular destination to do business, with 20% of those coming here on work commitments.

Irish and Polish family networks around London also seem to have grown in strength in the past year. Not only did their visitor numbers increase by almost one third and one fifth respectively, but as many as 39% of Irish and Polish visitors were in the capital to see family and relatives.

Source data

See also

Good news for tourists and Londoners as city dominates for visitor attractions

Tourists biggest users of Boris Bikes

How London’s choice of nightlife compares to other cities

It’s been a long time coming, so who’ll be aboard the Night Tube?

tube coming to station-2

The dispute about the Night Tube has has led to strikes causing misery for millions of Londoners.  It will be introduced this summer, but a poll by the Greater London Authority has found that a quarter of Londoners say they’ll never use it.

The GLA asked 1,000 people from across the capital their views on the Night Tube in a quarterly survey it carries out to canvas views about a range of issues.  The poll found that 26% said they would never use the service and that jumps to more than a third when those who say they would use it less than once or twice a year are added.

Those who will never use it outnumber the hard core party animals it seems.  18% of those surveyed said they’d use the service every weekend which includes 8% of those surveyed who’d use it every Friday and Saturday.

Not surprisingly, the figures on intended use look very different when broken down into age groups.  60% of over 65s say they’ll never use it and 43% of those 55-64.  But for younger people looking to enjoy their night out well into the early morning it’s a different picture. 49% of 18-24s say they’ll catch it every weekend, and for 25-34s it’s a massive 70%.

People in inner London are more likely to use the service than those in outer areas, and Asian people emerged from the survey with the lowest appetite for the service – 68% said they would ever catch a Night Tube compared to 85% of black people surveyed.

The service was due to start running last September but has been delayed by the dispute between Transport for London and the unions over pay, working hours and staffing. TfL is yet to confirm a start date but the Mayor, Boris Johnson, has said that it will start running at the end of July.

The service will run round the clock on Fridays and Saturdays on five lines – Jubilee and Victoria and most of the Central, Northern and Piccadilly lines.


Night Tube Map: Transport for London

While there is a clear age division on taking the Night Tube there was a lot more agreement on its benefits. 80% said that it would have a positive impact on London’s night time economy and 82% that it would be a good for those going to work overnight.  London’s reputation as a 24-hour city will be enhance by the service according to 89% of those surveyed.

But there were also some negatives. 46% are concerned about an increase in anti-social behaviour and 41% are worried about noise.

The survey was conducted by telephone with a representative sample of Londoners on the 11-18th March by ICM on behalf of the GLA.

Source data

See also

Crime down nearly a third in 5 years on buses, Tube and trains

Strikes are a commuting disaster, but what delays your daily Tube journey?

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Sportiest Londoners live in the wealthier south west boroughs

running woman-2People living in south west London are the sportiest in the city with a far higher proportion taking part in regular physical activity.

More than a quarter of the residents of Wandsworth do some form of sporting activity three times per week or more, according to survey data from Sport England.  But across London, in Newham and Barking and Dagenham, it is half that. And in Brent just 12% of people are doing that level of activity.

The south west corner of London has 4 boroughs, apart from Wandsworth, with large proportions of sporty people.  The data for Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea, Richmond and Merton shows about a quarter of people doing 3 sessions per week.

But in Bexley and Greenwich it is just 15%. It’s 14% in Newham and Barking and Dagenham. Across the other side of the city, in the north west, it is 15% in Ealing, 13% in Hillingdon, but with 12% Brent has the lowest rate of people doing regular exercise.

sport particpation map

South west London is generally a more affluent area than other parts of the capital but the reason why people there are more active in sports is not clear. These boroughs also have low levels of obesity, while the proportion of people with severe weight problems is much higher in boroughs such as Hillingdon, Barking and Dagenham and Bexley, as previoulsy reported by Urbs.

The data gathered by Sport England through the Active People Survey also reveals that as a region London has the highest average rate for people doing 3 sessions or more of exercise.

Sport participation regional

The current rate of 18.3% is up from 17.2% 10 years ago.  While this growth has been modest the proportion of people doing no exercise has also seen little change, and remains stubbornly high. Across the capital 52% of the population does no sporting activity.  But in Newham it is 62% and in Barking and Dagenham it is 64%.

For these people, getting off the coach to take part in sport 3 times a week may be a very tall order.  A more modest achievement may be to find a way to get them to join the 38% of Londoners who take part in sport once a week.

Source data

See also

Sporty Londoners prefer solo exercise

Size matters – and it depends where you live

The way we spend our cash – more rent, less alcohol, healthier eating

Health and wealth – an East/West divide when it comes to a flu jab



Visitor numbers and spending for 2015 on track for record-breaking year

London Eye pod-22015 is shaping up to be a very strong year for tourism in London. The latest data from Visit Britain shows a record number of visitors for the first six months of the year and record levels of spending.

There were 17.7 million visitors in the 12 months to the end of June, the highest ever total for a 12-month period. But visitors are not staying as long. The number of nights per visit has fallen to an average of 5.3, down from 6.2 per visit in 2014.

The French continue to be the most frequent visitors, as they have been since 2008. In the first 6 months of 2015 there were 1.1 million visitors from France. At that rate the figure of just over 2 million for 2104 will be surpassed.

January to June 2015 also saw 950,000 visitors from the USA and significant numbers from Germany, Spain and Italy.

Overseas visitor country-2

The French may be more frequent visitors, but the Americans stay longer. They clocked up more than 5 million overnight stays or 5.5 per visitor in the first 6 months of 2015. The average stay for French visitors is 3.7 nights.

Staying longer also means spending more. While visitors from France spend £371, those from the USA spend £827. Overseas visitors contribute four fifths of all tourist spending in London. In 2014 the capital raked in £11.8 billion.

Overseas visitor spend-2

Visit Britain gathers the data on visitor numbers from the International Passenger Survey, which is based on thousands of face-to face interviews.

Source data

See also

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Good news for tourists and Londoners as city dominates for visitor attractions

How London’s choice of nightlife compares to other cities

dancing-2London is rightly famous for vibrant nightlife but if you want a bar scene Rio’s the place for you, and if you want to shake something then head to Shanghai.

A serious-minded report on the impact of economic growth on culture and the creative industries has thrown up some interesting facts about how London compares with other cities.

It appears that while people in London may like a drink, that’s as nothing compared to the bar scene of some Latin capitals. Madrid has twice the number of drinking establishments of either London or New York. Rio has more than twice the number of Madrid. But the figures really stand out when you look at the number of bars per 100,000 of the population.

Bars per 100k

Our capital does a little better when it comes to restaurants. London has similar number as New York but fewer than Paris. But if you want some choice in eating out then Toyko is then place for you. The Japanese capital has 150,510 restaurants. That’s equivalent to 1 for every 100 people. Depending on the size of the eating places it seems that a fair proportion of Tokyo’s residents could go out to dinner one night.


There’s a bigger clubbing scene is in London than Berlin, but if you’ve got your dancing shoes on then point them to Shanghai which has twice the number of clubs and dance halls as LA.



London appears to be falling down when it comes to live music. With 245 venues London trails behind New York. The data for London on this is from 2011 and recent reports suggest more venues closing.  Australia emerges in the figures as the place to see live bands and singers. Sydney may be a smaller city but it has nearly matched New York for venues, and Melbourne out performs them all.

Live muisc

The French emerge in the data as the most avid cinema-goers with 30% more cinema admissions in Paris than London. It has more cinema screens too, nearly matching Los Angeles, the home of Hollywood.


Data sources

World Cities Culture Forum 2015 report

See also

Economic growth carries risk for culture and creativity, says report

Why the Mayor thinks busking should be music to our ears

London losing its thirst for binge drinking

Thirst for craft beers drives an increase in breweries

beerBrewing is booming in London perhaps driven by the current craze for craft beers.

The number of breweries in London has gone up from 45 in 2013 to 76 in 2015. Nearly 90,000 people in the city are now employed in the brewing and pubs sector out of 870,000 across the UK, according to the British Beer and Pub Association. 46% of the people working in the industry are under 24.

While big landmark breweries like Young’s historic Ram Brewery in Wandsworth have closed the expansion in the industry appears to be driven by micro breweries, many of them catering for the growing popularity of craft beers.

But while brewery numbers are increasing pub numbers are falling, according to the British Beer and Pub Association. This year to June 411 pubs closed in London and the South East while 145 new premises opened their doors, a net loss of 266.

This means that many of the new brewers will be looking wider than the pub trade to sell their beer, with some doing deals directly with retailers while other take their sales online.

Source data

See also

London losing its thirst for binge drinking

Why the Mayor thinks busking should be music to our ears

2015-07-18 14.19.56-1-2For some, busking is a noisy nuisance that obstructs the pavements. For others it is an essential part of the vibrancy of London. The Mayor and the GLA are on a mission to increase busking but some boroughs seem unconvinced and it remains a contentious issue open to local rules and by-laws.

City Hall’s promotion of busking steps up a gear throughout the next few weeks with the Busk in London festival until August 8th. It kicked off on Saturday 18th July, which was National Busking Day, if you didn’t know. In the coming weeks a large number of performers will showcase their talents in high profile locations like Trafalgar Square.

But away from festival time the rules on busking and its public acceptability are complex. London has a number of ‘official’ busking pitches, though the GLA dislikes using the term official as it points out that busking is legal on any public land in the UK.

The GLA told Urbs that there are currently 70 established pitches which include 39 in the London Underground, 14 on the Southbank, 11 around Covent Garden, 4 in Hillingdon Town Centre, 1 at One New Change Shopping Centre near St Paul’s and 1 at the O2 Centre on Finchley Road.

See also

Where the arts-loving Londoners live – not in Newham

Good news for tourists and Londoners as city dominates for visitor attractions

For buskers the problems centre on knowing when a location is on public land and whether their act is causing an obstruction or a noise nuisance, when a number of different laws may be used to move them on.

The GLA has tried to combat this by producing a Buskers’ Code to help potential performers choose a pitch and build up a good relationship with local people.

So far just 6 of the 33 boroughs have signed up – Westminster, Islington, Southwark, Hounslow, Kingston and Redbridge.

Camden, known for its music venues, has sought to restrict busking by introducing a license scheme and £1,000 fines for anyone caught busking without one.

Busking is not allowed at all in the City of London. The Corporation sites the Police & Factories (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1916 as the reason why.

The GLA says it is hopes to sign up more boroughs to its code soon and is talking to Network Rail about pitches at the big main railway stations.

It estimates that about 1,000 buskers are regularly performing in London. TfL says that performers at its 39 marked pitches at 25 Tube stations provide 100,000 hours of music for commuters each year.

If the Mayor, Boris Johnson, has his way their be more music and street theatre. In launching the code of conduct and his annual Gigs busking competition for under 25s he said: ”’Busking adds to the capital’s joie de vivre, but in spite of its popularity, buskers have sometimes encountered problems when plying their trade.”

The GLA estimates that music tourism generates £600 million for the London economy each year and that live performances enhance public spaces. And if City Hall gets its way you’ll be seeing a lot more of it.


Hotter than July? Data on how hot it should be at this time of year

Wikimania_2014_-_0803_-_Hyde_Park_-_The_Serpentine220917 Rainer Halama

The Serpentine, Hyde Park: © Rainer Halama ┃Creative Commons

London recorded the hottest July day on record today with the temperature climbing above 36 degrees at the weather station at Heathrow. As passengers on Tubes and buses suffered in the heat it was certainly, in the words of Stevie Wonder, hotter than July, or at least hotter than July usually is in the capital.

But what does one day tell us about summer temperatures and what is normal for July? At Urbs we turned our attention to weather data to find out. We looked at Met Office data for London for the month of July stretching back to 1948 and we found some interesting patterns.

Average July maximum temperature varied from below 20 degrees in 1954, 1965 and 1980, to over 27 degrees in 1986, 2006 and 2013.  2013 and 2014 was only the second time in the record when the average temperature was over 25 degrees for two consecutive years.

weather July average

The temperatures were recorded at the Met Office weather station at Heathrow Airport, the only one in London with openly available historic data.

Taking a 10-year rolling average gave a longer view on what’s happening to summer temperatures. The average maximum July temperature fell by almost a degree from 22.3 in the 1950s to 21.4 in the 1960s. It then rose steadily to reach 23.5 by the 1990s and has stayed around that level since.

weather july 10 year rolliing

The forecast says it will be about 10 degree cooler in a week’s time and with Wimbledon running later this year July is likley to have a fair share of rain. But today’s scorcher and the expected continuing heat of the next few days may mean those 2 consecutive years of plus 25 degrees will soon be 3.

Source data

See also

Bombed in 1940 and other lesser-know facts about Wimbledon

Tourists biggest users of Boris Bikes

Bombed in 1940 and other lesser-know facts about Wimbledon

wimbledon umpireOver the next 2 weeks around 500,000 people will head to SW19 for the Wimbledon Tennis Championships. For many Londoners it is a great chance to see grand slam tennis at the world’s most famous tournament. For others it’s a great time to avoid Southfields and the crowds on the District Line.

Many publications will give you what you need to know about the tennis. At Urbs we thought we’d simply serve up some of the lesser-known numbers on the tournament.

350,000 cups of tea and coffee will be consumed over the fortnight. Wimbledon is the biggest sports catering event in Europe employing 1,800 staff who will also dish out tonnes of poached salmon and strawberries.

54,250 balls will be used during the tournament’s 662 matches. Balls are changed after every 9 games. Old balls are sold off for £2.50 for a tin of 3 and the proceeds are given to charity.

39,000 is the capacity of the ground, which covers 13.5 acres. Centre Court can seat 15,000 spectators and there’s room for 11,429 on Number 1 Court.

1877 was the year that the championships began, making it the oldest tennis tournament in the world. It was men only until the women’s championship was added in 1884. During all these years there have been only 8 Wimbledons that have not been interrupted by rain.

1940 During the Second World War Centre Court was hit by a bomb. There was no tournament during the war. Other odd events on Centre Court include a streaker in 1996, the year that Sir Cliff Richard famously led a group sing-a-long when rain had stopped play for some hours.

250 The number of ball boys/girls employed to scamper across the court. The staff of the club swells by 6,000 during the tournament, including 700 security people, 350 umpires and line judges, 320 drivers and 200 cleaners

26 The millions of pounds in prize money awarded. The winners of the men’s and ladies’ singles receive a purse of £1.88 million. Losers in the first round get £29,000, not bad for a day’s work, particularly an unsuccessful one.

8 is the height in millimetres of the grass for the Championship. It soon gets worn a lot shorter than that.

1 Harris Hawk is flown around the courts each day to scare off the pigeons. Apparently he is called Rufus.

Source data

See also

Footy fans get a great deal in London – on the tea, at least

French biggest group of visitors but Americans spend most

© Deymos |

Photo: © Deymos |

The French slightly outnumbered the Americans as the largest group of overseas visitors to London in 2014 but Americans spent much more.

Data from the Office for National Statistics shows that London had another record-breaking year with 17.4 million visitors. London accounts for half of all visits to the UK. The French have been the biggest visitor group since 2008. A little over 2 million French people came to London while just under 2 million Americans visited last year.

Visitor numbers

But when it comes to spending power visitors from the US continue to be the in a league of their own contributing £1.6 billion of the £11.8 billion that London earned from visitors last year. American visitors stay for longer than the French.   American clocked up 13.3 million overnights compared to 8.6 million for French visitors.

visitor spending

According to the ONS, US visitors to the UK spend on average £113 per day when they are on holiday, but £100 a day more than that if they are on a business trip. Holidays remain the biggest reason for coming to London. 68% of visitors are tourists. Visiting friends and business trips are the other major reasons to come.

The largest rate of rise in visitors was from economically troubled Greece. Visitors increased by 40% to 155,000. Portugal, which has also had its share of financial woes, had a 39% rise in visitors to the London.

The ONS data is derived from the International Passenger Survey which is based on hundreds of thousands of face to face interviews with passengers at airports, seaports and the Eurostar terminal.

Source data

See also:

London ranked as top global city destination

Tourists biggest users of Boris Bikes