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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  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 483.

    The figures relate to the UK in general & not everybody comes to visit London.
    The Olympics hasn’t increased numbers as some had prophesised, but it’s hardly surprising.
    The UK is overpriced & much of the world is in recession, so fewer will have money to travel & spend.

  • rate this
    +31

    Comment number 256.

    So less people came but spent more yet many London business's had massive drops in takings.
    So where did these people spend their money? Just in the one part of London where the games wee held perhaps?
    So, the economic 'boost' (don't make me laugh) is almost certainly only gone to a small number of people. Certainly not the UK as a whole.

  • rate this
    +47

    Comment number 251.

    London...the mecca for overseas tourists...is in danger of pricing itself out of the market. My wife and I recently called into a coffee shop off Leicester square. Two coffees and a couple of small pastries cost £19.75! (I didn't know that beforehand. I wrongly assumed there was a going rate for coffees) So, even we Brits are finding our capital outrageously expensive, let alone o/seas tourists!

  • rate this
    +60

    Comment number 133.

    I wanted to travel home from Germany to see the Olympics, but I couldn't justify a 50% markup on the flight, let alone the prices for the Olympic tickets themselves. For me it might as well have been in Rio already for all the difference it made.

  • rate this
    +58

    Comment number 131.

    Is anyone surprised by this news? Retailers have already said the supposed boom due to the Olympics never materialised. Those who were here spent more because all the business jacked up the prices at the Olympics. I went to an Olympic event and they were charging £3 for a bottle of water!

    The Olympics were great but anyone who thought profit would be made from hosting the games was delusional.

 

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