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UK visitors actually fell during July, nevermind the Olympics hype

Sep 15, 2012 8:21 am

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Huge events with complex organization hassels actually turn off tourists, stats have proven time and again. This London Olympics was no different.

— Rafat Ali

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The number of overseas visitors to Britain fell during July, despite the lure of the London Olympics, research has revealed.

Foreign travellers made 3.18 million visits to Britain in July 2012, down from 3.36 million in July 2011, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Total spending by overseas visitors also fell in the same month, from £2.13 billion in 2011 to £2.01 billion this year.

Figures for August, when available, could show a similar trend. BAA recently reported a two per cent fall in the number of passengers passing through its airports.

The statistics will come as no surprise to tour operators, who earlier this year warned that high hotel prices in the capital had dissuaded ordinary holidaymakers from visiting Britain.

A similar effect was seen at the previous Olympic Games in Beijing. Hotel rates in the city during the 2008 Olympics were up to 10 times more expensive than normal, a figure that is thought to have contributed to a 30 per cent decline in visitors during 2008 compared with the previous year.

The figures will be a blow to the Government, which last month revealed its goal of attracting an extra 4.5 million overseas visitors during the next four years.

However, a spokesman for VisitBritain said the country was still likely to reach its target of attracting 30.7m in 2012.

“August (and September) will be a better sign of how the year will pan out,” he said. “While BAA figures did show a dip in the first couple of weeks of the month, they also point towards the latter half of the month picking up.”

The ONS also reported that total visits to the UK between January and July rose by one per cent compared with last year, to 17.93 million.

British holidaymakers made 5.75 million trips abroad during July, fractionally up on the total of 5.74 million last year, although total spending rose from £3.34 billion to £3.56 billion, it said.

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