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London visitor numbers hit record levels

London attracted a record number of tourists in 2015, with 31.5 million people visiting the capital, a 20% increase on five years ago.

Major sporting events, such as the Rugby World Cup, and blockbuster exhibitions at the city’s museums and galleries – including the V&A’s Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty – have provided compelling reasons for travellers to visit. And the figures show that every year since the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games there has been an increase in the number of visitors.

The figures, released today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) International Passenger Survey, indicate that there were 18.6m international visits in 2015 compared with 17.4 million in 2014. Domestic travel data from Visit England also reveals a record-breaking year, with 12.9m visits from UK residents.

The amount of money that visitors spend in London has also increased dramatically, amounting to £15bn on hotels, restaurants, shopping and attractions – an increase of 35% compared with 2010.

Throughout 2016, London will continue to see events to mark the Queen’s 90th birthday, as well as the opening of a major extension to Tate Modern, which tourism chiefs hope will boost visitor numbers further.

Separate research by independent forecaster Oxford Economics predicts that London will welcome 35.6m visitors by 2020.

The news delighted London’s new mayor, Sadiq Khan. He said: “It is fantastic that more people than ever before are opting to visit London, to sample the best of our capital and the best of Britain. London has something for everyone and an appeal that clearly extends across the globe.”