London welcomed over 16 million international visitors in 2013. Tourists from around the globe have flocked to the capital city in ever increasing numbers to attend exhibitions, visit royal palaces and watch sporting events. 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.
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 spent a record £11.2 billion on shopping, hotels, restaurants and visiting attractions, over £1 billion more than in 2012.
Boris Johnson, mayor, London, 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.
Neil MacGregor, director, British Museum, said, “London is and always has been a global city. I am delighted that the British Museum has welcomed a record number of visitors last year. One in four overseas visitors to London comes to see the collection at the London Museum, which spans two million years of human history. We continue to explore world cultures and their cultural connections in exhibitions from Roman Pompeii and the Viking Age to Shakespeare’s world and Ming China.”
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. Early figures for the first two months of 2014 also show there was a nine per cent increase in tourist numbers across Britain.
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.
Kit Malthouse, chairman of London & Partners, the city’s official promotional organisation, said, “London is continuing to build on its success and is offering exhibitions and attractions that people are prepared to travel from all corners of the globe to see. The wealth and breadth of the city’s cultural offering is incredible. From exhibitions showcasing the greatest artists and the world’s most famous fictional detective, to spectacular river festivals - the city offers something for everyone, young and old.”