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London welcomes nearly 17 million international visitors - more than ever before

London has welcomed over 16 million international visitors in one year for the first time in history, making it one of the most popular holiday destinations in the world.
Tourists from around the globe have flocked to the city in ever increasing numbers to attend world class exhibitions, visit amazing royal palaces, dine at Michelin starred restaurants, and watch world class 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.  

However, the city is not resting on this success but is carrying on delivering world class cultural exhibitions, theatre and sporting events to ensure 2014 is also a momentous year.  

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 today 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.  

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, 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 tell the story of this critical period in Chinese history. The Constable exhibition 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 by the master to offer visitors a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience the passion and innovation of his late works.  

Neil MacGregor, Director of the 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.  

“The world collection at the British Museum belongs to and is used by a global citizenship in London.  One in four overseas visitors to London comes to see the collection 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.  

According to the International Passenger Survey (IPS) London’s previous best year was in 2006 when the city welcomed 15.6 million visitors just pipping the 2012 number.  

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 world class 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.”  

The Historic Royal Palaces, including the Tower of London, Kensington Palace and Hampton Court Palace, has also celebrated a record breaking year by welcoming over four million visitors for the first time after putting on successful exhibitions like ‘Fashion Rules’ and ‘Secrets of the Royal Bed Chamber’.

Danny Homan, Communications and Development Director of Historic Royal Palaces, said: “We attribute the uplift in visitor numbers to strong inbound tourism following the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics in 2012, and also to the enduring popularity of London’s extraordinary heritage. “2014 promises to be another successful year for Historic Royal Palaces. The Tower of London has just achieved a record-breaking Easter period and our ‘Glorious Georges’ season is attracting visitors to new displays and events at Hampton Court and Kensington Palace.”

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