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London: Overseas Visitors Spend More Than £9.36 billion in 2011
The latest figures from the International Passenger Survey (IPS) indicate that in 2011 the UK’s capital built on the record growth and expenditure recorded in 2010 and welcomed more visitors who spent more in comparison with the previous five years data.

Consistent with the rise seen in 2010, the overall annual visits recorded were up year on year by 3.5% to 15.2 million, slightly more than the overall UK visits which increased by 2.9%. This was just shy of the record 2006 visitor figures, showing strong signs of returning to something close to pre-recession levels.

Visitor expenditure was significantly increased by more than 7% to a record breaking £9.36 billion for the full year. Business visitors were a significant source of these higher receipts seeing 16% growth from the previous year.

The trend for business visitors was consistently up throughout the year, yielding an annual growth rate of a very healthy 7%. In particular the US market gave a large contribution to the overall performance of the sector as the volume of US business visitors increased by 15% in quarter 4.

The US leisure market was particularly positive with visitors for the full year up 6%, buoyancy which was also reflected in spend in this market, which was up 6%.

The visiting friends and relatives (VFR) segment (up 6%) continued to recoup some of the major losses seen during the recession.

Major events and exhibitions

Major events such as the Royal Wedding in April, which saw over a million people line the streets of London, were a strong draw for leisure visitors. Sporting events also saw thousands come to London for the UEFA Champions League Final in May, and a series of test events including the World Badminton Championships appealed to both domestic and overseas visitors.

Major exhibitions also brought visitors to the capital, including Leonardo Da Vinci at the National Gallery, Fabergé Eggs and Kate Middleton’s wedding dress at Buckingham Palace, and the Glamour of the Gods at the National Portrait Gallery.

New hotels and meeting spaces

London’s business tourism offer was also boosted in 2011 by an array of new hotels and meeting spaces. Hotels such as Starwood’s Aloft (situated by London’s ICC ExCeL London), St Ermin’s hotel, the Corinthia hotel London and Marriot’s stunning St. Pancras Renaissance London hotel all opened last year adding to the range of business friendly hotels that London already has to offer. The city also saw additional quirky venues which can be used for corporate hospitality including the soon to be Olympic venue the Lee Valley White Water Centre and the popular Westfield Stratford City shopping centre, which is heralded as Europe’s largest urban shopping centre.

Olympic Games

London & Partners CEO Gordon Innes commented: “These latest figures are very encouraging for the capital. In the last year we have had so many one off and spectacular events for leisure visitors, in addition to our consistently brilliant offer for those coming here on business. As we enter some of the most exciting few months for London, we are confident that The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and Olympic and Paralympic Games will provide an overall boost to London's visitor economy and we are looking forward to an incredibly exciting summer and rest of year for London.”

Next five years

The latest figures from IPS come as London & Partners has, for the first time forecast figures for the next five years. The new figures from Oxford Economics indicate that 12.7m overnight leisure visitors, both overseas and domestic are expected to come and stay in London during 2012. The predictions until 2015 are equally positive, and predicted to grow by a total of 11% from 2013-15, resulting in around 14.1 leisure visitors coming to the capital in 2015.