US tourists drive rebound in foreign visitors to London’s top attractions

International tourists flock to London’s top attractions in larger-than-expected numbers as the country emerges from the epidemic, driven by a stream of U.S. visitors who take advantage of Covid-19’s relaxed testing requirements and a strong dollar.

However, tourism bodies fear that the slow recovery of the Asian market – especially high-spending Chinese tourists, which could deter the end of duty-free shopping for visitors outside the EU – will hurt the recovery.

The Tower of London welcomed more than 70,000 visitors in the week ending July 3, over the corresponding week in 2019 for the first time since the outbreak of the plague. In June, U.S. visitors accounted for 45 percent of ticket sales for a 944-year-old castle, up from 27 percent before epidemic.

During that time, the number of visitors to the Royal Museums sites in Greenwich, including the Royal Observatory and Cutty Sark Cutters, and Westminster Abbey stood at 83 per cent and slightly below 70 per cent from 2019 levels respectively. Both attractions rely on international visitors in most of their ticket sales, which are recovering much faster than expected, according to their operators.

Paul Bauman, general treasurer at Westminster Abbey, said the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in early June “created a buzz” around the church, where 39 coronations have been held since 1066, providing “invaluable publicity” to visitors from around the world.

Tourists visiting Westminster Abbey on Friday © Anna Gordon / FT

“If they go anywhere for their first trip after the plague, it surprises me that the place where Americans come first is Britain,” Bauman said. He added that Britain had “shunned” the bad publicity it had received at an early stage of the plague when it mocked it as “the plague island”.

“Europeans. -13% against the dollar since the beginning of the year has been a boon for US tourism.

In June, the U.S. government also ended the Covid-19 testing requirement for incoming passengers, facilitating foreign travel for U.S. citizens.

“The attraction of London remains unmistakable,” said Dan Wolf, commercial director of the Royal Royal Palaces, a charity that runs six UK palaces, including the Tower of London. “Despite the events of recent years, London’s culture and history will always be an attraction to international critics.”

The positive trajectory has raised optimism among operators that previous forecasts that the number of visitors and international spending will not return to pre-epidemic levels by 2025 may turn out to be too bleak.

In April this year, visits by incoming tourists fell by 33% compared to 3.2 million recorded in the same month in 2019, but spending was only 9% below 2019 levels, according to the Ministry of National Statistics.

But Joss Croft, chief executive of UKInbound, said the current rise in visits and spending could be seen as a “temporary leap”.

“Even though [tourism from the] The U.S. is doing very well, there is concern that many visitors are traveling using travel vouchers issued in 2020 and 2021, and they are burning their savings bank in the plague, so there are still concerns about what is going to happen down the road, “Croft said.

The end of duty-free shopping for visitors outside the EU after the UK left the bloc last year could make London a less coveted shopping destination for wealthy people, especially from the high-spending Chinese market.

In 2019, Chinese tourists accounted for only 4% of visitors outside the UK to the UK, but were responsible for 26% of spending on tax-free shopping, according to Swiss payment company Global Blue.

Now, they can no longer claim the 20 percent value-added tax paid on purchases; The concern is that they, and other avid shoppers, will “abandon” London in favor of other European capitals, said Paul Barnes, executive director of the International Retail Association.

Tourists in London
Tourists return to London but concern remains over slow recovery of Asian market © Anna Gordon / FT

“Why would the biggest spenders from the US or China choose London to buy designer clothes when they could get the same item 20 percent cheaper in Paris, Milan or Madrid?” Barnes asked.

He also added that the UK visa system is “not a good product” like the Schengen visa for 26 countries, due to bureaucratic delays and the EU program allowing multiple re-entries as part of its waiver program. The UK’s new visa – free travel plan will not be fully implemented by 2024.

Moreover, China’s continued zero-cube policy, which includes official injunctions against any “unnecessary travel,” has led to an almost complete collapse in Chinese international tourism.

Bauman said the slow recovery in demand for Asian tourism is “the main thing holding back” ticket sales at Westminster Abbey from the pre-plague peak, along with “slight weakness” in demand from continental Europe. In May, Asian critics accounted for only 3% of total ticket sales, compared to 23% in the same month in 2019.

Asian tourists typically make up a fifth of the £ 14m sales turnover at the four sites run by the Royal Greenwich Museum. At the Royal Observatory gift shop, the average spending on a Chinese credit card was £ 200 before the plague.

“It’s a big loss to the stomach,” said Paddy Rodgers, director of the Royal Museums in Greenwich. “We have no evidence as to when the trip from Asia will recover. For now, Americans flooding back to London and the strong dollar have been our saving grace.”

US tourists drive rebound in foreign visitors to London’s top attractions Source link US tourists drive rebound in foreign visitors to London’s top attractions

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