Cheap travel threatens London tourism

The opportunities for low-cost travel abroad, rather than fear of terrorism, is deterring some UK tourists from visiting London, research has revealed.The number of UK domestic visitors to the capital dipped after the July 2005 bombings.

But the threat of terrorism is not now foremost in the minds of domestic tourists, a survey by the Visit London organisation found.

Confusion about what London really had to offer as well as the competition posed by budget airlines were “barriers to domestic visits” to London, said Visit London.

The findings came as Visit London, in conjunction with Transport for London (TfL), launched its fifth initiative aimed at domestic visitors since last summer.

The number of visits paid by overseas residents to London rose 6.9 per cent but UK residents paid just 12.0 million visits to the capital - 6.3 per cent fewer than in 2004.


Visit London, in association with Transport for London (TfL), is now launching a new campaign to attract visitors from the rest of the UK into the capital.

The campaign encourages themed weekend trips to London and use of TfL’s Oyster card to get around the city. Suggested themes featured at: include: “Ditch the Diet”, “Carry on Camping”, “Second Honeymoon” and “Culture Vultures”.

Mayor of London Ken Livingstone said:
“London is the greatest city destination in the world.  I’m pleased to support a campaign that encourages people to enjoy their own capital city, using London’s public transport to make the most of their stay. No matter how many times you visit London, or how well you think you know the city, there’s always somewhere new to discover or something different to experience.”

Visit London’s Chief Executive, James Bidwell said:
“People who live in this country make up nearly half of all visitors to the capital. This campaign will keep London top of mind with UK visitors as well as reflecting the breadth and diversity of London’s tourism offering, in an engaging and humorous way. London is a global leader in transport technology and Oyster is the glue which holds together a successful trip.”

Director of Group Marketing for TfL, Chris Townsend said:
“Most visitors to London use public transport to get around. TfL’s Oyster card is more convenient and offers cheaper single and day fares, so visitors can spend more time enjoying the world-class events, restaurants and attractions which make London the most vibrant city in the world. Visitors from within the UK can order an Oyster card in advance and have it delivered to their door, so it’s ready to use to travel on London’s Tubes, buses, DLR and tram the minute they arrive in London.”

The promotion is the fifth initiative aimed at domestic visitors since the events of July 2005. The year ended with overall growth in visitor numbers to London and a record number of passengers on the Underground.

Total London overnight visitor growth in 2005 is estimated at 0.5% in total visits (to 26.3m) and 3.3% in spend (to £9.5bn). The growth in numbers was principally driven by continued success in attracting overseas visitors (+6.9% to 14.3m visits in 2005), contrasting with a year on year decrease in domestic tourism (-6.3% to 12m visits in 2005), reflecting a national trend.

In 2005 Visit London’s “London in September” campaign encouraged 4.3 million visits to the city for festivals and events. Other campaigns included a pre-Christmas campaign and the “Winter Wonderland” promotion over Christmas and New Year.

By the end of February 2006, TfL’s “Everyone’s London” campaign and Oyster family discounts had resulted in nearly 200,000 offers being redeemed at attractions throughout the city.

To inform the latest campaign, Visit London carried out extensive research into attitudes to London amongst people across the UK.

The opportunities for marketing London included a growing market for visiting friends and relatives in the city, the popularity of London “packages” and themed weekends and special occasions.

Some of the barriers to domestic visits included the impact of low cost airlines taking people abroad and stereotypes in terms of what London can offer. The threat of terrorism was not front of mind for the majority of people.