London is the most visited city in the world.
Its many tourism records are not due to luck or fate, but they are the result of the excellent job that the local administration has done together with all the entities involved in the creation of an appealing cultural offer.
The cultural tourism in London in fact generates £ 3.2 billion per year and supports 80,000 jobs, a situation of exceptional splendor that anyway does not let anyone rest on his laurels. The institutions are fully aware that they are surrounded by other very competitive realities (Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam and New York overall) that could threaten their leadership.
Besides its world-class theatres, that are a real magnet for tourists, the free national museums policy introduced in 2001 continues to be a big boost for tourism: accesses grew up to 150% in the first decade, with a significant public diversification (economic and ethnic), and an important impulse to the creative industry.
Despite this success, London knows it must face three major issues in the short term:
- the overload of urban transports that have to deal with the growing number of tourists (who normally remain concentrated in zone 1 and 2) as well as the constant immigration: a crowd that can compromise the good reputation of the English public transports.
- the planned cuts in the public spending for a better cost management
- the diversification of communication, since the 90% of tourists is focused only on the 20 main cultural attractions, losing the infinity of other opportunities offered by the city, often far beyond the borders of the center.
Four factors behind the excellent results of the cultural offer in London:
- A calendar of exhibitions, performances and events of quality, selected not necessarily drawing on the easy lure of big names (strategy that gave London the reputation of one of the best markets for emerging artists and young talents). Great care for the preparation, organization and communication, three elements that contribute equally to the success of an event.
- Promotion campaigns able to reach the entire potential audience, from advertising billboards to the main media channels to target the Londoners and with an excellent online presence to attract tourists from around the world.
- An efficient centralized online communication, well organized by visitlondon.com that works closely with 1,100 cultural enterprises and institutions and which boasts 27 million unique visitors per year, contributing with an added value of 100 million pounds a year to the city’s economy. The campaign "London's Official Guest of Honour", for example, aims to reach 250 million potential visitors, with a promotional video that has already been seen 6.5 million times.
- Ability to identify alternative sources of revenue to support the costs of locations and organizationst, the diversification of business models, the good fundraising strategies, not to mention the excellent quality of tours that are constantly renovated, such as those inspired by literature and cinema (just think about Harry Potter).
For the next five years, London wants to concentrate its resources on local authenticity, to let the tourists know more about the wide range of opportunities that the city offers. Furthermore, half of the London’s cultural organizations still not promote themselves internationally and this is a great potential for improvement.
Well aware of its limits (climate, prices, hotels quality), the city is studying strategic solutions and continues to invest in its strengths: the quality of the services provided and the diversity that represents its soul.
Here, 300 different languages are spoken and in 23 out of 33 districts there is no ethnic majority: a diversity that, contrary to popular belief, in many ways encourages cohesion and stimulates the market, particularly the cultural one.
Above all, and despite the cuts and the consequent doubts about its future economic sustainability, the city continues to invest transversely between public and private. One example among many: the opening of the Tate Modern’s new wing scheduled for June 2016, cost 260 million pounds, which will ensure a +60% space for art. A major challenge for a museum that in the last 12 months had 7.9 million visitors, most of them under 35 years.
Investments are planned for:
- training of the operators who have not yet discovered the potential of the online and international communication channels, to have them involved in the central promotion strategy.
- creating and launching new routes to be offered to the cultural tourists, especially those who come back, because London is worth to be fully known in its authenticity, uniqueness, plurality.
- Giving strength to the new economic trends that have a sort of influence on tourism, such as men's fashion.
- Refining the national traditions to give them tourism appealing, as it was done for the Remembrance Day, turned into an art event in 2014 (with the expanse of the ceramic poppies under the Tower of London) and in a fashion event in 2015 (with the paper poppies pinned on all the Londoners’ jackets).
- Creating up to date and high quality content for press and media.
- Perform analysis and constant research on the sector, to intercept the trends, to identify the critical situations in time, to have the flows under control.
Will London maintain its leadership in the years to come? Which city will threaten it most?