Inbound visitor numbers drop during Olympics

Inbound visitor numbers drop during Olympics

Overall tourist numbers to the UK dropped by 5% in August, confirming inbound industry fears that hosting the Olympics would dampen demand.

But the amount spent by foreign visitors, which includes their spending on Olympic tickets, was up 9% on August 2011.

Just over 3 million foreign visitors were recorded in the month, a drop of 5% year on year.

This left overall visits for the year to date at the same level as 2011, VisitBritain pointed out.

Numbers heading abroad in August was pegged at last year’s level of 7.3 million.

The Office for National Statistics estimated that 590,000 people in July and August normally living outside the UK had visited and attended at least one ticketed Olympic or Paralympic event, of whom 420,000 visited primarily for the games.

The average spend by visitors who attended at least one ticketed event was £1,290 - almost twice as much as those who did not.

"The average amount of money spent by those people who either made their visit for an Olympics or Paralympics purpose or attended a ticketed event was almost twice as much as the average spent among other visitors," the ONS said.

The noticeable lack of visitors in London's theatres, museums and on buses and trains during the Olympics have raised concerns that the games could hurt British businesses as other tourists stayed away to avoid the crowds.

IHS Global Insight economist Howard Archer told Reuters that the weak economic situation in many countries across the globe might have also been a reason for the fall in tourist numbers.

"While the impact of the Olympic Games and the Paralympics on the number of overseas visitors coming to the UK in August may be open to differing interpretations, it is evident that the Games did boost spending by overseas visitors to the UK," he said.

VisitBritain chief executive Sandie Dawe said: “The first six months of the year saw a record in terms of both the number of holiday arrivals and the amount of spend, and with August’s figures we are now at the same level as we were in 2011.


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