THEY used to hate us, but now it seems the rest of the UK is coming around to the many charms of London, like Highgate Cemetry, picked out as one of the capital’s hidden gems by Mayor Boris Johnson.

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According to the latest tourism figures, in 2008, British visitor numbers to London broke the 10 million barrier for the first time, rising 11% on 2007 to 11.3M and the projections are for the trend to continue in that happy upward direction.

During the same period, fewer foreigners than before came to our city, dropping 3% to 14.8M, but it is hoped the weak pound may encourage more of them back this year.

Overall, over half a million more people chose London as a tourist destination last year than in 2007, stats which provide Johnson with a handy platform for today’s launch of the latest come-and-get-us wheezes.

First up is an ad campaign under the banner West End it’s Time, which, well, here’s the Mayor himself to explain:

“We kick off our marketing drive today with West End it’s Time, a unique initiative to drive visitors into the centre of London,” he said, though he probably doesn’t mean he’ll literally drive people into town in his Mayoral limo.

Boris prefers cycling, for one thing.

West End It’s Our Time is part of a broader initiative, labelled Only in London, backed by a hefty £2M pot.

One of the aims of Only in London is to nudge tourists towards lesser known sites, including Highgate Cemetry, the burial place of Karl Marx, but that has unearthed its own skeletons.

“We are now told this is the most important cemetery in Europe and there are more people coming to see it than ever before,” said Jean Pateman, of the Friends of Highgate Cemetery.

“But it’s a busy burial ground and we want to make sure every family with a grave can visit in peace. This is a sacred place.”