The globalised nature of the world in which we live is visible in many aspects of our lives. Take a quick scan on Facebook to see how far and wide your friends are scattered, or alternatively just take a stroll down London’s prime retailing streets, Oxford Street, Regent Street or Bond Street, on a Friday lunchtime, and marvel at the huge variety of nationalities and accents on display.
It is this ability that the West End has to attract international tourists that is of the main contributing factors to its ongoing health and vitality. The cultural attractions, restaurants, hotels, as well as the dynamic retail offering, which includes many flagship stores and the unique luxury retailing destination, London Luxury Quarter, are what make it the top choice for many domestic and international travellers. And increasingly, it is visitors from outside the EU who are driving this tourist growth. During the months of July, August and September, London attracted a record 4.9 million international visitors. This impressive 19.5% year-on-year increase on the extremely successful Olympic summer highlights London’s status as one of the most popular summer tourist destinations in the world.
The growth of tourist spend in London and in the West End in particular, is one of many topics covered in JLL UK Retail’s new report, ‘London’s West End: Review and Outlook.’ The report explores in detail the current health of the Core West End, and provides a detailed outlook for real estate investors and occupiers situated within the area. The report focusses on the retail and leisure sectors, but also touches on the hotel and office sectors, and provides insight into the key drivers behind the success of the area, as well as some of the challenges to overcome to ensure continued success.
And on this note, the strength of the area also represents one of the key threats. The West End’s prime retail areas must mitigate against over-reliance on tourism, something which is vulnerable to external threats and influences, such as currency fluctuations. So whilst every effort should be made to ensure further growth in tourism numbers and spend, including removing some of the barriers to the key Chinese market, domestic and local visitors must be embraced and encouraged into the area with equal vigour. Think global, but neglect your local shoppers at your peril!
Colin Burnet is a Director in JLL’s European Retail Research team.