Jan 17 - London is on track to being the most popular tourist destination in the world, beating Paris and New York, with latest numbers showing visitors to the UK capital up 20 per cent. The rivalry between 'The Big Smoke' (London) and 'The City of Love' (Paris) comes amid another media-based spat between Britain and France over the economy. Hayley Platt reports.
The London Olympics, a Royal birth and Andy Murray's historic Wimbledon win. All helped to boost visitors to the capital by a fifth to more than 4.9 million last summer. It's a UK record says London's deputy mayor Kit Malthouse. (SOUNDBITE) (English) KIT MALTHOUSE, CHAIRMAN OF LONDON AND PARTNERS AND DEPUTY MAYOR FOR BUSINESS AND ENTERPRISE, SAYING: "We have had a knockout set of figures for London, our best summer since the Norman invasion.." They spent over 3 billion pounds on shopping, hotels, restaurants and attractions. That's an increase of five percent. The capital's now firmly in line to become the world's most popular city, beating rivals New York and Paris for the top spot. That could fuel a row between London newspaper, City A.M. and the French embassy - which has hit back over claims that France is a 'failed socialist experiment'. Editor, Allister Heath is unapologetic. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ALLISTER HEATH, EDITOR CITY AM, SAYING: "It is a very stagnant economy, it is an economy that looks down on wealth creators, entrepreneurs, it doesn't like people who make money and that is why so many of them have moved to other countries." Hundreds of thousands of people have moved to London from France. Among them, Parisian bankers fleeing rising taxes. French expats say that as the French economy stalls, the UK looks increasingly attractive. (SOUNDBITE) (English) UNIDENTIFIED FRENCH MAN WHO LIVES IN LONDON, SAYING: "We are behind you in terms of getting out of a recession and making the good reforms." (SOUNDBITE) (English) UNIDENTIFIED FRENCH WOMAN WHO LIVES IN LONDON, SAYING: "The French are very....still have that prejudice of thinking that they are better than everybody else and they are not facing the music." Britain's economy is steadily growing. December's inflation fell to its target 2% for the first time in four years. Tourism is a crucial earner, one London's mayor Boris Johnson is keen to promote. SOUNDBITE: Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, saying (English): "There is more green space in London than any city in the world." Expectations are for the capital to top 16 million for the year as a whole. President Hollande will soon be one of them - he's due to visit the capital for the Anglo-French summit in a few weeks time. No doubt eager to sample some of London's iconic landmarks.