Olympics puts off visitors but boosts income

 
Ben Southwood
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VISITS to the UK slipped in August, data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) confirmed yesterday, although tourists spent considerably more than usual.

Overseas residents made 3m visits to the UK in August, the data showed, five per cent down on the same month last year. However, even on the reduced number of visits earnings grew some nine per cent, to hit £2.4bn.

The ONS put this influx of foreign cash down to the Olympics. “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,” it said.

Across July and August, some 420,000 visitors came to the UK to see the Olympics or Paralympics, for which Boris Johnson was a figurehead, while a further 170,000 came mainly for another reason, but ended up going to a ticketed event anyway.

Many analysts are hoping this influx visitors to London provided the stimulus to move the economy into meaningful recovery. The ticket sales alone – which will all be included in third quarter figures – should add around 0.2 percentage points to quarterly GDP growth.

UK residents made 7.3m visits abroad during August, a one per cent fall on August 2011, the data showed, but also increased their spending. Expenditure on visits abroad increased six per cent in the year to August.