Eurostar set for busiest December on record

Eurostar is expecting its busiest December on record as visitors from mainland Europe take advantage of the favourable exchange rate and do their Christmas shopping in London.

More than 370,000 passengers are booked to travel on the high speed rail service connecting the UK and mainland Europe during the Christmas period, according to figures. This is a 2% increase on December 2016, which was the highest end of year traffic since the service launched in 1994.

The rise is driven by an 8% surge in sales of inbound visitors to London – either on day trips or short breaks – as European visitors take advantage of the exchange rate to indulge in a seasonal shopping spree.

The pound’s 13% fall against the euro since the EU referendum in June 2016 means it makes financial sense for Parisians to swap Galeries Lafayette for John Lewis.

Christmas markets in France and Belgium continue to attract UK travellers to the continent, and a 22% uplift is expected on Eurostar’s direct service to Disneyland Paris over the festive holidays.

Festive trips to the slopes are also growing in popularity, with an 18% increase in passengers choosing a high-speed rail journey over air travel to the Alps.

Eurostar’s busiest day over the Christmas period is expected to be Friday 29 December, with over 35,000 expected to travel across the Channel for New Year’s Eve celebrations. This is closely followed by Friday 22 December, when on a single day over 34,000 are expected to make the getaway ahead of Christmas.

“Throughout the year we’ve seen an increase in travellers coming to London from the continent,” said Mary Walsh, director of communications at Eurostar. “This trend has continued into December as visitors cash in on the favourable exchange rate and combine retail therapy with a City break.”

Shops and boutiques at St Pancras International are offering discounts to shoppers with a Eurostar ticket, while the flagship department store Liberty London is giving Eurostar passengers £15 off gifts in store and online when they spend £100 or more.

A Eurostar spokesman added: “Brexit hasn’t impacted our sales, other than the better exchange rates really boosting numbers into London. It wouldn’t have previously made sense for Europeans to do their Christmas shopping in London but now there’s a lot more value in doing so.”

According to London and Partners, which provides information about general visitor figures into London, in the first half of 2017 international visits were up 12.7% to 9.98m trips, while expenditure soared by 16.2% to £6.1bn.