Tourists love UK theatre

Published November 6, 2013

New research from VisitBritain has reinforced what many of us previously thought, tourists to the UK love our stage offerings, be it plays, musicals, opera or dance.

An incredible 2.8 million overseas visitors, in fact, based on information drawn from the 2011 Office for National Statistics International Passenger Survey, take in a show while on holiday in the UK. This is more than double the 1.3 million who see a live sporting event.

The statistics are particularly rosy for London, where 24% of all holidaying visitors, go to the theatre, compared to the 9% who head to a show while visiting the West Midlands and the North West.

The performance-hungry tourists splashing the cash on programmes, souvenirs, dinner and hotels add £2.7 billion to the UK economy, more than double the £1.1 billion spent by live sports visitors.

Speaking about the findings, lyricist and producer Sir Tim Rice, whose latest musical From Here To Eternity is attracting tourists to the Shaftesbury theatre, said: “Theatre is not only one of Britain’s strongest exports, it is also enjoyed in the UK by visitors from all over the world. In the 40-plus years I’ve worked in musical theatre, from Jesus Christ Superstar to From Here To Eternity, I have seen the number of foreign visitors to the West End theatre soar to magnificent proportions, to the extent that tourism is now an absolutely crucial factor in our industry’s well-being.

“I am not remotely surprised to learn from this report that more than twice as many visitors go to the theatre than go to sporting fixtures. British theatre is one of the great reasons to come to Britain. We must make every effort to ensure that it remains so.”

In 2012, despite the economic climate and a dip in attendance during the Olympic period, nearly 14 million people saw a show in London’s major theatres, with gross sales of £529,787,692.