All good things must come to an end

London’s long-haul tourism growth slows

November 7, 2017

2017 has been a spectacular year for inbound tourism to London, with growth in long-haul arrivals, during the first three quarters of the year, standing at 13.5% up on the equivalent period in 2016. The analysis has come from ForwardKeys, the company which helps forecast future travel by analysing around 17 million flight booking transactions a day. However, analysis of bookings for the final quarter of the year indicates a significant slowing in demand, with bookings currently standing 7.0% ahead of where they were at the equivalent point last year.

Most notably, the Americas, which are the UK’s most important origin market by numbers and by value (they represent a 50% share of long-haul visitors), have slowed. Arrivals in the first three quarters of the year are 16.9% up on 2016 but bookings for the fourth quarter are currently just 4% ahead of where they were at this time in 2016.

The slowdown in bookings from the USA correlates with a decline in the relative strength of the US$ dollar against £ Sterling.  Last October, £ Sterling hit a 5-year low of $1.22 but the rate has since recovered to over $1.30.

Analysis of long-haul bookings for London reveal that a series of terror attacks coincided with dips in demand and those dips were significantly more marked in the fast-growing Chinese market. However, within a matter of just a few weeks, there was a return to growth, suggesting that the inbound travel industry is becoming increasingly resilient to terrorism.

Speaking at London’s World Travel Market, Seb Cron, VP Sales, ForwardKeys, commented: “It appears that the appeal of a weak pound is more attractive to visitors to the UK than the terrorist attacks are off-putting.”

ForwardKeys also revealed a slight slowdown in growth of the long-haul outbound market too. In the first three quarters of 2017, departures have been 7.5% up on last year. However, bookings for the last three months of 2017 are currently running 6.3% ahead of where they were at the same moment in 2016.

The most popular long-haul destination by far is the USA, with a 29% share of the market. It is followed by the UAE (7%), India (6%), Canada (5%) and Thailand (4%). The destinations showing the most substantial growth are Saudi Arabia, which is showing 4th quarter bookings 29.2% ahead of the same point in 2016, Australia, 15.4% ahead, Japan, 13.5% ahead, UAE, 11.9% ahead and Mexico 11.6% ahead.

Seb concluded: “One has to be particularly impressed with the UAE and Australia in attracting visitors from London because both have a substantial market share and are showing strong growth.

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