Olympics 2012 boosts UK visitors

New research from national tourism agency VisitBritain offers genuine insight into how winning the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games could drive tourism success.

Information from the Nation Brands Index proves that the Games are already having a positive effect on people’s perceptions of Britain and their desire to travel. Among the 35 countries surveyed, of those who actually said they would be likely to visit the UK if money and time was no object, almost 1 in 3 said that they were more likely to visit because of the Games, with China and Russia among the countries who are most likely to agree.

Seb Coe, chair of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games says: “London 2012 will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the UK to show all we offer. This research shows that the tourism benefits of hosting the Games will not just be realised in 2012; they have already started and will continue long after the final race has ended.”

24% also said they had been influenced by sport or a sporting event held in the country they had chosen to visit, demonstrating that interest does convert into action. Visitors from Brazil, China, India, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand and South Africa are among the top ten countries most likely to be influenced in this way.

Tom Wright, chief executive of VisitBritain, says: “This is further evidence that the Games could realistically generate a potential £2 billion for Britain’s visitor economy. As future growth for our industry will come from developing markets, such as China and India, and from younger travellers who may not have strong ties to Britain, sport and sporting events are a great platform to help the UK remain internationally competitive.

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Sports visitors stay nearly twice as long (14 days compared with 8) as the average overseas visitor to the UK and are generally younger. This is particularly true for visitors who play sport during their stay (27% were under the age of 25 in 2005, while the world average is 19% for this age group).

An analysis of the International Passenger Survey shows sporting activities are already a popular draw for international visitors. A total of 2.4 million overseas visitors in 2005 watched or participated in sport - about 8% of all inbound visits. Altogether, they spent £1.6 billion during their stay, some 11% of the total. Sport is a popular option for some of Britain’s most valuable visitors. People from Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland and the USA account for 50% (1.2 million) of total sports visits and 40% of sports visitor spend.

Germany’s World Cup in 2006 is also being held up as an example of the benefits a global sporting event can bring to a destination.

Analysis of the Nation Brands Index shows perceptions of Germany’s cultural, political, commercial and human assets, investment potential and tourist appeal all improved following the World Cup. The largest increase came from answers to the question ‘this country excels in sport’. 
A survey by the German National Tourist Board among visitors during the tournament showed that nine out of 10 respondents thought that Germany exceeded expectations and would recommend it as a destination. Between January and July 2006 an additional 3.5 million bed-nights were spent in Germany with early evidence suggesting that the whole of Germany benefited, not just the host cities. The country also witnessed visitor increases from the Netherlands (+20%), the UK (+35%), Brazil (+255%) and middle America (+405%).

Tom Wright continues: “If Britain is to rival destinations around the world in the years to come, we must make use of every opportunity to accelerate improvements in the quality of experience our visitors can enjoy. The Olympic Games and Paralympic Games and sports tourism have vital roles to play in improving perceptions among our visitors of the welcome they will receive when they visit.”

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