Fewer visitors, but Olympics still boosted economy

London 2012 may have had a net positive effect on the economy despite lower than expected visitor numbers in August, figures are suggesting.

The total number of visitors to Britain in August fell by five per cent despite London 2012, figures out today from the Office for National Statistics have confirmed.

But an estimated 590,000 people who attended at least one ticketed event visited Britain in July and August – and those who did so spent an average of £1,290 per person.

That is almost twice as much as the average £650 spent by other visitors, which may explain why – in spite of the total fall in overall visitor numbers – the economy may not have suffered as much as previously thought.

Anxiety about the economic impact of the Olympic and Paralympic Games preoccupied much of the first week of the Olympics, after London surprised many by being notably quieter than usual. June and July had also seen falls in visitor numbers.

According to the ONS the £2.4 billion spent by overseas visitors in Britain during August was nine per cent higher than in August 2011. The figure includes Olympic tickets, it noted.

Earlier this week the National Institute of Economic and Social Research said that the Olympics had given Britain a 0.8% increase in output in the third quarter of 2012.

Without the Games, and the extra bank holiday of June 2011 for the royal wedding, underlying growth remained as low as 0.2%, it warned.