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.

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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

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Mapping Londoners: Born in France

The French are the most frequent visitors to London but in terms of long-term residents they are only the 11th biggest group by place of birth.

According to the last census there are 67,000 French-born Londoners and most live in central areas. Kensington and Chelsea has the most followed by Westminster. In both boroughs they are the third biggest group by birth after English and American born people. In Hammersmith and Fulham they are the largest overseas group by place of birth.

Born in France

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More population maps

French biggest group of visitors but Americans spend most

French biggest group of visitors but Americans spend most

© Deymos | Dreamstime.com

Photo: © Deymos | Dreamstime.com

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

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