Olympic and Paralympic Games fail to boost UK visitor numbers

Ben Southwood
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VISITS to the UK crept lower in 2012, despite London hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

A total of 26.2m visits have been made to the UK in the first ten months of 2012, according to figures released by the Office for National Statistics yesterday. This is one per cent below the level in 2011, despite the capital hosting the world’s biggest sporting event.

October, which saw a four per cent decline in visits compared to the same month last year, bringing the figure to 2.7m, was the fourth month out of the last five with visitor figures lower than last year.

However, earnings from tourism, at £15.8bn in the first ten months of the year, were up three per cent on the year before, despite an 11 per cent fall in October earnings, bringing the month’s figure to £1.6bn. And this gain did appear to come from an Olympic boost, rising 12 per cent and 19 per cent in the two months the Games were held.

Barclays’ Mike Saul took a downbeat view on the figures, suggesting that Eurozone troubles were acting as a brake on tourism from the currency bloc. “The latest tourist numbers offer little Christmas cheer as year on year figures continue to decrease,” Saul said. “With weak growth across the Eurozone, household spending remains a major concern for many of our traditional visitors.”

Whatever the picture for visitors to the country, UK tourists’ enthusiasm for foreign visits appeared undimmed, with the total number, at 50.3m in the year up to and including October, completely flat on the figure for 2011. And spending abroad climbed four per cent to reach £29.3bn over the year to October.