While 2012 host city London and Scottish capital Edinburgh maintain their position as the two most popular destinations for inbound visitors, places such as Cardiff, Glasgow, Manchester, Newcastle and Windsor have shown that the Olympic spirit is alive and well across the UK, with many other regional towns also benefiting from a stopover by international guests.
When researchers looked at all types of visits, host city London - home to the Olympic Park and the largest shopping centre in Europe at Westfield Stratford City - came out as the top destination with 14.7 million overseas visits. It was followed in second place by Edinburgh, with 1.3 million overnight visitors soaking up the unique blend of traditional and modern Scottish culture.
Manchester, home to one of the most iconic football stadiums in the world (Old Trafford) and host to both men’s and women’s Olympic football matches, sits in third place with 811,000. But this North-West city is about more than just football - it’s the home of Brit cool with world famous galleries and theatres such as the Lowry centre and the Royal Exchange bringing the old and new of Manchester together. Local rival Liverpool comes in at sixth (452,000 staying visits).
Firmly placed in the top five with 551,000 overnight stays is Scotland’s style capital, Glasgow, which will see Olympic football matches take place at Hampden Park. Also Scotland’s largest city, it houses more than 30 museums and galleries and an annual programme of performing arts and festivals, and will play a key role in the Cultural Olympiad celebrations.
Cardiff at twelfth is the next highest Olympic city, with 260,000 overnight stays. Europe’s youngest capital and one of the fastest growing cities in Britain, Cardiff will also have the honour of hosting the very first event of the 2012 Games when Team GB’s women’s football team kick off the tournament at the Millennium Stadium. Fans can then explore the remarkable castle next door, before wandering amongst the best collection of Impressionist art outside Paris.
Newcastle (14th) and Windsor (20th) make up the final two Olympic towns in the top twenty most stayed in UK destinations for 2010. Foreign tourists were particularly lured to the North-East by its exuberant pub and club culture: a greater proportion of foreign visitors went to the pub (67%) here than any other area across the UK. Together with a spectacular coastline, Newcastle is enjoying more visitors coming to experience the likes of the awe-inspiring Hadrian’s Wall or marvel at the 20 metre high Angel of the North, one of the most viewed public sculptures in the world.
The recent Royal Wedding has helped highlight the great heritage experience that can be found at Windsor, and its international appeal will be boosted as it acts as the venue for the Olympic rowing and canoe sprint events. Within easy reach of London, Windsor’s royal connection - combined with contemporary shopping and fine dining drew over 160,000 overseas visitors there last year.
Patricia Yates, Strategy and Communications Director for VisitBritain said: “The 2012 Games will see sporting battles take place across Britain, offering a fantastic showcase for the diversity and wonderful experiences that can be found in every area. In May, the Torch Relay will start on its 70 day journey covering almost 95% of the UK, inspiring each and every one of us as it winds its way around the country. We are then spoilt for choice as we host the London 2012 Festival, the biggest festival the UK has ever seen, with artists from all over the world converging on British towns, cities and villages to engage with the British public and tourists alike.
“It is clear that next year presents us with some real opportunities to showcase Britain to new audiences around the world. Our GREAT campaign will be launching in key global cities, raising the aspiration to travel to Britain and backed up by GREAT offers from our commercial partners to encourage visitors to come now.”
The latest figures released today saw Bath climb up seven spots to become the eleventh most stayed in town, while Southampton has entered the Top 20 for the first time. Over 300 towns have had at least 10,000 overseas visits since 2007, this includes the likes of Coventry, Fort William, Exeter, Stirling, Hastings, Gloucester, Shrewsbury, Ullapool, St Ives, Kendal, Truro and Fishguard.
Also in Europe today, City.Mobi is celebrating the success of its new guide to London.
City.Mobi offers the most comprehensive mobile travel guides available, with over 800 cities in 200 countries listed. Each is developed by the City.Mobi team to combine into a single global travel directory.
London.mobi is the latest in this illustrious line up, offering click to call functionality – which means no scribbling down telephone numbers.
Most entries are also linked to websites where users can quickly access more detailed information if needed.
Other key features include information on accommodation, restaurants, attractions, entertainment, nightlife, shopping, and transport.
City.Mobi guides include user reviews and traveller utilities such as a translation guide, currency converter, news and local weather guide.