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

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Tourists biggest users of Boris Bikes

Tourists and casual customers not London commuters are the big users of the city’s cycle hire scheme, the so-called Boris Bikes.

Boris bikes

Data analysis by Urbs reveals that in 2014 more journeys began from the bike docks around Hyde Park, one of London’s busiest tourist and leisure spots, than the combined total of journeys from 4 of the capital’s busiest railway stations – Waterloo, Liverpool Street, Kings Cross and Victoria.

In 2014 (figures Jan to Oct) 8.3 million journeys were taken using the bikes. Of those, 749,000 began at the Hyde Park bike racks – Hyde Park Corner, Albert Gate, Black Lion Gate, and Kensington Gate. That compares to 214,000 journeys that started at Liverpool Street and 213,000 at Waterloo.

The data also indicates that many users are taking the bikes for a leisurely ride rather than using them to get to a specific destination. More than half of the journeys that started in Hyde Park also ended there.

The numbers gathered by TfL show that commuters arriving from out of town into the city’s main rail terminals are the biggest users of the bikes in the morning rush hour between 7-9am. In that period the top 5 hire locations are all at the big stations, including 3 racks at Waterloo. And users are pushing the bikes back into the racks in the City. The top 5 dropping off points in the morning rush hour are all in the financial district. The average journey time in this period is 16 minutes.

Later in the day the average journey time goes up to 24 minutes and the focus of activity moves west. Across the day the top 3 busiest locations are around the entrances to Hyde Park.

27,000 journeys are taken each day, on average. Across the year it varies from a January average of 15,000 to the peak in July with a daily rate of 35,000. As might be expected the numbers go down on rainy days, though it seems the commuters are hardier folk than the visitors. Weather data shows that on January 29th 2014 it poured with rain and bike journeys dropped by 30% from 15,000 daily average to 10,000. It also rained heavily on August 25th, at the peak of the London tourist season when many Londoners are away on holiday. The 30,000 daily average plummeted to just 6,000, a fall of 80 per cent.

The cycle hire scheme was introduced on July 30th 2010. The Mayor, Boris Johnson, said at the time that it would transform travel for Londoners and visitors.  The data suggests that the tourists have got the message, and commuters who travel into the city to work are the other significant group of users. But Londoners living outside zone 1, who are helping to subsidise the scheme through their taxes, don’t appear to see the bikes as part of the home to work solution.

There are currently 11,500 bikes and 748 docking stations. The scheme was extended to the west and south west of the city in 2013. But many of the new locations are among the least used, including Clapham, Shepherd’s Bush, and East Putney. The Clapham Common site takes the low usage award with just 469 hires last year – an average of 1.28 per day.

Cycling has grown remarkably in the city in recent years. In 2014 600,000 journeys were taken each day by bicycle. The 27,000 daily Boris Bike journeys make up a fraction of that. For most Londoners getting on your bike means buying your own rather than tackling the miles across the sprawling city on a chunky 23 Kg machine.

Source data:

Cycle hire numbers 

Cycle journeys in London