The number of overseas tourists visiting London this year is expected to grow at its slowest pace since the terrorist attacks in the US in 2001 as the credit crisis and a global economic slowdown threaten to derail consumer spending.
The forecast from Visit London, the capital’s tourist board, follows the release of figures that show that record numbers of overseas tourists visited London for the second consecutive year in 2007. Despite welcoming the strong results, Visit London issued a downbeat assessment for this year.
“Against the background of faltering world economic growth and weakening consumer spending in Europe and North America, the tourism industry in London is arguably facing its toughest year since 2005.”
The tourist body forecast that visitor levels were likely to fall by 1.1pc this year, with spending unlikely to “grow much above inflation”. Overseas visitors numbers are forecast to grow just 0.3pc – the worst since 2002 – with domestic numbers expected to fall by 3.4pc.
Visit London warned that its forecasts could be too optimistic. “This slowdown could be more severe than predicted.”
Provisional statistics from the Office of National Statistics show 16.1m overseas visitors came to the capital last year, up nearly 3pc on 2006. Total spending by foreign tourists hit £8.7bn, up 11pc on 2006.
Tourist leaders blame the potential slowdown in part on a cut in government spending on the tourism industry. They launched a Take Tourism Seriously campaign in November to convince the Prime Minister to reverse an 18pc cut in the tourism budget amid concerns that the 2012 Olympics legacy could be squandered.