London Tourism

International Travel Behavior to London

Greetings from London! After many years of hopes and dreams, I have finally made it to London on vacation with my family. Out of curiosity, I wondered what international travel to London was like, specifically in terms of where people were visiting from, how they travelled and if the reason for their visit was a vacation like me.

Luckily, I found data from Visit Britain on International Visitors to London through the London Datastore. This data was collected through Visit Britain’s International Passenger Survey to understand, similar to my interests, visitors’ behavior and choices when they travel to London.

First, let’s take a look at how the number of visits that they have documented has changed throughout the years.

Since 2015, there has been a decline in inbound tourism to London amid terror fears, rail issues and high costs for families to visit. Despite this, Visit Britain forecasts that international tourism will grow in 2019 as Q1 visits are already up year over year.

One area of interest to me is how a visitor’s country of origin may influence their travel behavior. Since there are travelers who visit from so many countries, in order to investigate this, I will just focus on the Top 20 countries represented in this data set, that too, just for 2018.

When it comes to the mode of travel, it is expected that countries closer to London can afford to travel by different methods than just air. So, let’s see just how visitors’ travel mode differentiated by their country of origin:

From the bar plot we can see that countries neighboring the UK, such as France, Germany and Belgium, have a larger percentage of visitors traveling by Sea and the Tunnel. Countries like the US and Australia, also have a decent amount of travelers commuting by Sea and the Tunnel, likely traveling directly from other European countries and not their home countries. Undoubtedly, most visitors do travel to London by air.

Now, let’s see the reasons why people were visiting London from these countries:

While it is no surprise that holiday is the main reason for travel to London, there are a couple of interesting trends presented in this bar plot.

While there is higher traffic from neighboring countries visiting friends and family, that is not surprising as it’s easier to visit people the closer that they are. What is interesting is that visitors from Eastern European countries, Ireland and the Netherlands actually traveled to London for either visiting family and friends or business trips more than going on holiday.

Looking at the blue segments, the visitors who are studying abroad in London, larger portions of students seem to travel from countries that are more likely to offer study abroad options at their schools or promote international travel. However, students studying abroad did not make up a large portion of London’s visitors.

This leads me to beg the question of how the purpose of a visit would influence how long a visitor stays. If someone is on vacation like me, they may be in London for no longer than a few days to a week or two. If someone is on a business trip, their visit may just be a couple of days. Let’s see:

For visitors on business trips or holidays, we can see that they were more likely to stay for either 1-3 or 4-7 nights. It’s not surprising that those visiting family and friends were likely to stay 4-7 or 8-14 nights as they most likely had somewhere to stay for free! Lastly, looking at our small population of visitors in London for study abroad, they obviously stayed for 15+ nights.

It is always nice to see when the data reinforces our assumptions, but is equally as interesting when it teaches you something new. Information like this could be highly beneficial to travel sites and products looking to target just these markets.

Thanks for reading and exploring some international travel behavior to London with me. Click here for reference code. Now, time to see some of London!

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