London’s iconic West End today toasts a fruitful festive season in response to significant boosts to international tourist spend, retail sales and footfall recorded in December across Piccadilly, Leicester Square and St James’s, reported by Heart of London Business Alliance. International tourist spend surged +25% year on year, whilst retail sales rose +15.4% and footfall +13.3%, all above the national averages.
Notably, celebrations on New Year’s Eve in Leicester Square and Piccadilly increased footfall by +22.3% compared to 2015, whilst visitors to Piccadilly and St James’s drove New Year’s Day footfall up +94.7%, year on year.
Boxing Day also delivered a visitor surge for Piccadilly and St James’s driving footfall up +15.1% on 2015. Piccadilly welcomed 238,000 visitors to the area, up +5.8% on the previous year, and
42,000 people visited Jermyn Street, up +37.9% on the previous year.
Ros Morgan, Chief Executive of Heart of London Business Alliance says the positive festive season’s performance comes down to the quality of the services and experiences the area has on offer for UK and international visitors alike.
“There is good reason for the 400 million people who choose to visit to Piccadilly, Leicester Square and St James’s each year. The diverse mix of leisure attractions – cultural, retail, food and beverage – and their close proximity within the heart of London makes it a celebrated space.
“These numbers are evidence of our area’s growing popularity and with the experience of these visitors always top in mind, we work closely with our members to ensure their return – and the continued growth of our economy.”
Tourist spend in the West End showed a growing presence from Asian and American shoppers who continue to benefit from the weakened pound. Retail tourism experts, Global Blue’s insights recorded significant spend from shoppers from Taiwan, the Philippines and Hong Kong – groups historically accounting for smaller share of West End spend – alongside dominant shopper groups China and America.
Gordon Clark, Managing Director UK & Ireland says: “The rise in spend from the historically smaller shoppers groups in the West End directly relates to the favourable exchange rates post-Brexit. The fact they are choosing the West End to spend significantly is encouraging for the area, helping drive more awareness of the destination and its offering further abroad.”
Leisure operators across Piccadilly, Leicester Square and St James’s have welcomed the good news, acknowledging the festive season’s boost to their businesses for the New Year.
Andrew Love, Deputy Chairman of The Ritz London says: “We had one of our most successful Decembers for a number of years at The Ritz and were fully booked throughout the hotel, The Ritz Restaurant and Palm Court for much of the festive season. This was partly due to our new Michelin-star accolade as well as many of our domestic guests coming to see the iconic decorations and experience the wonderful atmosphere at the hotel. We also saw an increase in our international visitors.”
Underbelly Directors Ed Bartlam and Charlie Wood say: “We’re delighted to have presented the inaugural Christmas in Leicester Square event, with the festivities proving a great success. Over 1.5 million people visited our Christmas markets, and over 34,000 people saw La Soiree or visited Santa in his Grotto.”
Tim Marlow, Artistic Director at the Royal Academy of Arts says: “Our Abstract Expressionism exhibition ran from 24 September 2016 – 2 January 2017. The total number of visitors was an impressive 317,905 with an average daily attendance of 3,211 and more than 35,000 visitors attending the exhibition in the final week. ”