New data shows musicals and National Portrait Gallery help drive growth in the Heart of London’s West End

London’s West End has surged, driven by the tremendous success of musicals and the restoration of the National Portrait Gallery, new analysis has revealed today by business membership organisation – Heart of London Business Alliance (HOLBA).

Theatres in the Heart of London area which includes Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus, Piccadilly District, St Martin’s Lane, Haymarket, and Jermyn Street bounced back strongly from the pandemic taking £238.4 million in revenue from 4.2 million theatre goers during 2023 (representing approximately one quarter of total attendance across Society of London Theatres). More than half the ticket sales were earned by musicals, with Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, The Book of Mormon and We Will Rock You topping the charts in both attendance and revenue.

The district also benefitted strongly from the re-opening of the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) in St Martin’s Place following its biggest transformation since opening in 1896. Since reopening in June 2023 after being closed for three years, the NPG has welcomed 1.8 million visitors – 20% more than before it closed before the COVID-19 lockdowns.

The data is included in HOLBA’s first Economic Real Estate Report 2023-24, which tracks key economic indicators across the wide range of premises in the Heart of London area.  HOLBA Chief Executive Ros Morgan said the new analysis demonstrated how the West End remains the beating heart of the capital and a commercial and cultural driver for the entire UK economy.

She said: “This new report offers a comprehensive analysis of the ever-evolving real estate landscape within the Heart of London (HOL) area, demonstrating its notable resilience and prosperity.

“We have seen impressive growth across the board, with unprecedented demand for office space which will continue to drive consumer spending. At the same time, our iconic cultural institutions continue to prove themselves to be the engine room at the heart of London.

“As we navigate the constantly changing real estate landscape, it’s essential we not only acknowledge the HOL area’s current success but remain committed to fostering growth and development.”

The National Gallery on Trafalgar Square also surged forward in 2023, welcoming more than three million visitors, a 14% increase on the year before.

These cultural powerhouses underpinned the strength of the wider economy in the Heart of London.

Office occupancy rates of 96.4% are the highest since records began in 20059, while the number of jobs in the district grew almost 20% between 2018 and 2022.  Restaurants, bars, and other hospitality venues have a 100% occupancy rate. 

Hotels continue to recover strongly from the pandemic, the HOLBA analysis also shows. Hotel occupancy at the end of 2023 was 78.5%, compared to 71% a year earlier and a rate of 82.3% in February 2020, before the first lockdown.

The latest ONS (Office for National Statistics) data shows overall Gross Value Added (GVA) of the Heart of London area grew by a third between 2017 and 2021, nearly three times the rate seen across London as a whole.

Download the report here