Growth in overseas visitors to London to take visitor count to 26.6m

Visit London released its visitor forecasts for 2006 at an industry briefing to discuss the impact that the July bombings will have on the capital's second largest industry. Prospects are mixed with overseas visitor numbers expected to grow strongly and domestic visits presenting more of a challenge.

Visit London 2005 got off to a strong start with foreign arrivals in the UK and London growing strongly. The majority of overseas markets expanded but domestic visits were down. This uneven growth was compounded by the London bombings with an immediate reluctance from domestic consumers to travel to the capital (anecdotal evidence suggested domestic visits declined by as much as -30% in July and August 2005). In contrast, foreign visitors continued to flow into the UK.

Every indication suggests that the London bombs will not have a lasting impact. The strongest overseas growth levels in 2006 are likely to come from Eastern Europe and Asia taking foreign visits to a record level of 14.9m with spending increasing by +4.5% to £7.2bn.

The domestic market is facing a number of factors with lower consumer spending and the continuing availability of cheap air flights having an impact on London. If current trends continue unabated, domestic visits are predicted to fall by 2.1% to 11.75m in 2006 and spending decrease by 1.9% to £2.6bn.

Overall in 2006, total visits to London are expected to grow by +1.2% to 26.6m in 2006, while visitor spending is forecast to grow +2.7% to £9.8bn.

Visit London's Chief Executive, James Bidwell, said: 'In general, prospects for 2006 are positive. However, there does seem to be a divide between buoyant prospects for the overseas market and challenging indicators for the domestic market.'

Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, said: 'It is encouraging to see the international support for London and the growth in visitors from Eastern Europe. Growth markets such as China and India also present great potential for visitors in the future. Our successful Olympic bid also gives us an opportunity to promote the city as the most globally inclusive capital in the world.'

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