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16.8m overseas visits to London in 2013, up 43.8% in 10 years


Correction notice to be published: 18 June 2015, 3.30pm

Please be aware that the data used within this infographic has not been revised to take account of updates made to the Q3 and Q4 data. Travel Trends 2013 was republished on 19th June 2015 and contains revised estimates following updates made to Q3 and Q4, 2013 data within the 2014 Overseas Travel and Tourism data processing.

Latest ONS data looks at travel and tourism in 2013

There were 32.7 million visits to the UK in 2013, a 5.2% increase since 2012. Over the same year, spending by overseas visitors increased by 14.0% to £21.3 billion. The number of visits to London in 2013 was the highest since 1961, with half of all visitors to the UK visiting London. There were 16.8m overseas visitors to London in 2013 and they spent £11.5 billion.

Increase in visits to London over the last 10 years

A total of 16.8m overseas visitors visited London during their visit to the UK in 2013. This was the highest recorded number of overseas visitors since 1961. The proportion of all overseas visitors to the UK who visit London has been increasing steadily over the last ten years, from 47.3% in 2003 to 51.4% in 2013.

Two-thirds of visitors from North America and other countries outside of Europe visited London during their visit to the UK in 2013 (65.9% and 67.2% respectively). Just under half (45.8%) of European visitors to the UK visited London in 2013. Half of all overseas visitors visiting London were on holiday. Over the last ten years, the number of overseas visitors visiting London for a holiday has increased from 4.9m in 2003 to 8.5m in 2013 (72.1%). Over the same period business visits have increased by 18.7% and visits to friends and family increased by 35.1%.

Over the last 10 years the top 10 countries of residence for overseas visitors to London have remained fairly constant. In both 2003 and 2013 visitors from the United States of America, France and Germany were the top three visiting countries.

Table 1: Top 10 visitors to London over last 10 years (numbers in thousands)

  2003     2013
USA 2,234    1 France 1,904
France 1,191    2 USA 1,878
Germany 892    3 Germany 1,295
Irish Republic 624    4 Italy 1,072
Netherlands 619    5 Spain 866
Italy 601    6 Australia 687
Spain 527    7 Netherlands 687
Australia 451    8 Irish Republic 611
Canada 317    9 Belgium 531
10  Sweden  308    10 Sweden 516

Table source: Office for National Statistics

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Tourist spending in London almost doubled in last 10 years

Expenditure in the UK by overseas visitors in 2013 had increased by 14.0% since 2012 to £21.3 billion. Of this overall expenditure, 54.1% was spent in London. The amount spent by overseas visitors in London almost doubled (increased by 95.9%) between 2003 and 2013. Overseas visitors spent £11.5 billion in London in 2013 compared to £5.9 billion in 2003. The increase in spending has been largely driven by the increase in holiday visits to London over this period. In 2013, just under a half (48.0%) of spending by overseas visitors in London was by those on holiday.

In both 2003 and 2013, visitors from the United States of America were the highest spenders in London. The top 10 spending countries have changed over the last 10 years, with countries from Asia, Central and South America, and the United Arab Emirates replacing the Netherlands, the Irish Republic and African countries as high spenders.

The average spend per visitor to London is higher for some countries than others which explains why the list of top 10 visiting countries is different to the top 10 spending countries. Visitors from the United Arab Emirates and countries in Central and South America, Asia and the Middle East have a higher average spend per visitor than countries, such as France, Germany and Italy that have higher number of residents visiting London.

Table 2: Top 10 spending countries, visiting London over last 10 years (expenditure in millions)

  2003     2013
USA £1,412    1 USA £1,522
2 France £332    2 Other Middle East £1,057
3 Italy £293    3 France £689
4 Germany £290    4 Australia £547
5 Australia £235    5 Germany £540
6 Netherlands £222    6 Italy £504
Spain £221    7 Spain £499
Other Middle East £209    8 United Arab Emirates   £416
Other Africa £199    9 Other Asia £411
10  Irish Republic £173    10 Switzerland £303

Table source: Office for National Statistics

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Where can I find out more about overseas travel and tourism statistics?

These statistics were analysed by the International Passenger Survey team at ONS. The analysis was based on data from the International Passenger Survey. If you would like to find out more about overseas travel and tourism, you can read the release, view the infographic, or visit the travel and transport page. If you have any comments or suggestions, we would like to hear them. Please email us at:

Categories: Travel and Transport, People and Places, International Tourism, People, Tourism
Content from the Office for National Statistics.
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