Number of visitors to UK drops in Olympic month

Volleyball crowd at London 2012 The Olympics ran from 27 July to 12 August

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The number of visitors to the UK fell in August, despite the Olympics, but the amount they spent rose.

Overseas residents made three million visits to the UK in the month, down 5% from August 2011, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

This may be due to fears of overcrowding due to the Games and the unseasonally wet weather.

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

The Olympic Games ran from 27 July to 12 August while the Paralympics began on 29 August.

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

"Figures from previous Olympics show that it is normal for the host country to experience a dip in international visitors during the Games," said Gillian Edwards, spokesperson for the Association of British Travel Agents (Abta).

"We would expect a tourism boost from the Games to come in the next few years and it will be essential for the UK to continue to market itself at home and overseas to make the most of the opportunities that being a host nation has opened up."

Higher average spend

Start Quote

It is very clear that overall the Olympics did not deliver any benefits to UK retailers in August”

End Quote Richard Dodd British Retail Consortium

Some in the travel industry claim potential visitors decided not to visit the UK to avoid any disruption caused by the Games, but the ONS stressed that there may have been other reasons for the fall in visitor numbers.

"[Wet weather] is a very important factor to consider alongside the Olympics and other things like exchange rates, which may have an impact on visits," Roger Smith from the ONS told BBC News.

Between June and August the number of visits was down 7% compared with 2011, but for the year to the end of August the UK had the same number of total visitors as last year.

UK residents made 7.3 million trips abroad in August, which was down 1% from the same month last year.

The ONS figures are taken from interviews with people leaving the UK during the month of August, so exclude visitors who did not leave the country until after the end of the month.

ONS senior statistician Roger Smith: "We estimate 590,000 people came to the UK for the Olympics"

Of the 420,000 people whose main reason for visiting was the Olympics, 260,000 were residents of European countries with 80,000 coming from North America.

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

"Normal visitors stayed away and the Olympic visitors didn't make up for it," said Miles Quest from the British Hospitality Association, which represents hotels and restaurants.

"But London hotels were very busy in August with over 90% occupancy rates and revenue also up."

'Like Christmas'

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said its figures showed that August had the slowest sales growth they had seen all year.

"It is very clear that overall the Olympics did not deliver any benefits to UK retailers in August," said Richard Dodd from the BRC.

"There were lots of overseas visitors who attended the Games and whose focus was not on shopping."

On Tuesday, the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (Alva) said that the wet summer and Olympics had meant that some London attractions had hosted 60% fewer visitors than usual during the two-week period of the Games.

"For London attractions, the Olympic period was one of their worst trading periods in living memory and for visitor attractions, the summer is their equivalent of retailers' Christmas," said Alva chief executive Bernard Donoghue.


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  • Comment number 153.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.


    The government should only undertake projects that are guaranteed to make a profit. We should build no more roads (unless toll), no more rail (unless fares double) and no more state schools (as those kiddies don't pay up).

    The fact is some projects are worth doing regardless, as they reward in ways other than pounds and pence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    So another false business case from government - what a surprise. The Olympics was going to bring great financial benefits. Business case probably put together by the same person that did HS2, students loan, overseas aid.... probably bought a job lot from the pound shop. Government stop treating everyone as stupid plebs (and calling us that as well!!)

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    Unless you were a sports fan why would you visit UK during the Olympics? Prices for travel, hotels and restaurants were all increased coupled with predicted delays, congestion and the stay away messages from the Government. Bit of an own goal for the tourist industry.

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    who cares- we won everything!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    After a bit research, this is the guy responsible for Legacy followup
    Email him

    Meanwhile, having paid more tax on my air ticket than on the fare, and seeing £18 entry fees as 'standard', I can understand why people may not come.......

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

    Im not surprised as flight tax in the uk is massive and went up again the start of this year. This tax has cost this country millions and millions and is yet another example of how the government are a complete waste of time and have no clue how to employ simple economics.When they tell you about all the cuts they have to make remember how much revenue they have lost due to their tax and pray pln

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    The street vendors deserve an Olympic gold for extortion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    Weird how one post gets a low rating when it makes the same point as another post with a highest rated score, is this something to do with people not reading things and idling away their time playing some weird game to pass the time I wonder?

    Olympics have not generated additional tourism in the year they take place for years, in most cases they don't leave a legacy for tourism either.

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    #136 what event did you go to? I went to the Team Sabre finals and let me tell you, there were more than "a few" empty seats. More like a few hundred! They did their best to hide it though. I recorded the event on TV, and guess what? They didn't point the camera there or even have it in the baground the entire event. What you saw was all very carefully stage managed. In short, you've been duped!

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    The Government promised us all that OUR billions (3, then 9) to be spent on the Olympics would benefit the UK by bringing in tourism spending. Not only has spending from OUR pockets benefited other people's pockets, but the nett result to the UK as a whole is negative.

    Does anyone still seriously believe our Governments' economic
    assurances ? Answer: no, but these lessons are never learned.

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    It is a shame that fewer people came to the UK. Outside of some of our major cities there is still some precious aspects of our rapidly disappearing heritage that are worth seeing. But I cannot see much point in visiting our cities; hotels are cheaper in most developing countries.

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    Due to the completely misguided experiment of multi-cultureism, & the lefty libs agenda to wipe our existing culture out, isnt it no suprise people dont think London is worth visiting, unless you want to look at the old stuff when we had a culture! Why visit London when hardly any of it is 'English' anymore.
    Reap what you sow

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    Sadly i appears that the only people interested in comming to the UK these days are illegal immigrants.

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    I visited family but we would have stayed for the olympics although no-one, not even my father who was a helper could get tickets.
    Talking to other people from various countries, the same problem hindered them too. No tickets and feeling London would be crowded kept everyone away.
    Releasing so many tickets too close to the event didn't help, as people already had plans.

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    Any day of the week, middle of the day, pop-out of the tube in London in one of the main turisty areas (say, Westminster, Covent Garden, Oxford Circus) and it's thick with people, a bit like going to a packed concert. It's a turist rat-race.

    Part of the problem is that London is a huge city but only a very small number of areas are both worth visiting and are kept well maintained.

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    It didn't need statistics to tell us that the olympics were a flop in terms of local business cashing in on the tourists. Well before the games many on here said it wouldn't make a difference. Whenever a politician says it will benefit jobs or the economy DON't believe them as 9 out of 10 its not true and just an excuse to push through some idea.

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    Some of these comments are a load of tabloid-driven nonsense. These papers were so distraught that the Olympics got off to a good start that they found a few empty seats and proclaimed it a national disaster.

    The Olympics do not make money for the host city - never have, never will. What they do give is a legacy.

    For the naysayers, If the UK is so bad, why not move somewhere better?

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    @15. Lawless-uk

    It was unrealistic to expect otherwise.

    The majority of Europe is flat broke, and will remain so for at least 5 years.


    5 years?

    It is going to take decades to get us out of the economic mess we are currently in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    Successive government's are always trying to discourage us from foreign holidays and using airplanes, but when the cost of a 3* hotel in the UK is about £70-90 per night with only breakfast then no wonder we all go abroad as its the same or less if you are even looking at a pokey cottage in Devon for a week and that will set you back a grand peak season with out food. Rip off Britian


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