Most Brits underestimate what a powerful magnet this metropolis is and wrongly consider London to be a typical capital city. The latest survey from Ten Lifestyle Group suggests otherwise. We have more than two million affluent members globally – and when we asked those well-travelled and, crucially, high-spending individuals how many days they would like to spend when visiting the world’s top cities, London came out on top at an incredible 14 days. That contrasts with Paris at nine days, Rome at five and Madrid at four, with only New York coming close with 12 days. And high-end visitors, according to research by Walpole, spend 14 times more every day than the mass market tourists in the UK; a total of £30bn per year.
So, while recent predictions from the London mayor estimate that it could take until at least 2025 for domestic and international overnight visitor numbers to return to the levels seen in 2019 – with hospitality and hotel spend predicted to take until 2026 to return to the £18.8bn of 2019 – our data supports the conclusion that the tourist pound could recover sooner.
But what is it about London that keeps travellers coming and makes them want to stay?
Firstly, it’s the scale of the city combined with its diverse population. There are 8.9 million Londoners who call the capital home, compared with far less than half that population in Madrid or Rome, while Paris, at 2.1 million, is much closer in size to Birmingham than London.
The British capital wins for high culture, too, with superb theatre in the West End – only New York’s Broadway compares – and we host a world-leading six of the top 20 museums in the world according to the Network of European Museum Organisations.
The city is also hard to beat when it comes to popular culture. In summer, its parks come alive with packed outdoor festivals, The O2 vies to become the world’s busiest music venue, and we have two of the world’s top 10 most supported football clubs in Arsenal and Chelsea.
Meanwhile, we match New York as a financial centre and we’re fast becoming the culinary capital of Europe, especially in terms of quality across diverse global cuisines.
Finally, London offers more geographical dimensions than any other city. While most capitals have a handful of districts to discover, London has countless neighbourhoods each deserving at least a day of exploration. Of course, there are well-known areas such as Knightsbridge for luxury shopping or Soho for its incredible nightlife, but we also have vibrant districts with unique identities. Take Hackney, where you’ve got bustling weekend markets, forward-thinking restaurants and hipster fashion, or Greenwich with its leafy parks, old-world pubs and Georgian splendour.
So, as the messy process of choosing a new prime minister unfolds over the summer, with a recession and strikes looming, we Londoners shouldn’t be too downhearted. We can trust that London will be an engine of recovery – bringing in visitors and high levels of economic activity that will help fuel the UK’s revival. Let’s hope our next government agrees on the oversized value of London and gets behind our extraordinary city.
By Alex Cheatle