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Visits to the UK for the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympics

698,000 Olympics/Paralympics-related visits to the UK in 2012

The Event

The London 2012 Olympic Games took place from 27 July to 12 August 2012 and the Paralympics from 29 August to 9 September.  This event is of global interest and ONS has addressed the question of how many people visited the UK for the Games. This article refers to estimates for the full year 2012, unlike a previously-published story which referred to provisional estimates for the period July to September.

This is done through analysis of data from the International Passenger Survey (IPS) which had its sample boosted (58.2 Kb Pdf) in this period.

698,000 Olympics/Paralympics-related visits to the UK

In 2012, 698,000 overseas residents completed a visit to the UK either

  • primarily for an Olympics/Paralympics-related purpose (471,000 visits), or

  • primarily for another purpose but went to a ticketed London 2012 event (227,000)

Approximately three quarters of these visits were completed in August with the vast majority of the remainder split equally between July and September.

Most visits were from Europe

419,000 of the 698,000 visits were made by people living in Europe while 126,000 were from North America and 151,000 from other countries.

Among the base of visits made primarily for an Olympics/Paralympics purpose, the country providing most visits was USA, followed by France, Germany and Netherlands.  Outside of Europe and North America, residents of Australia made 15,000 Olympics-based visits and residents of Brazil, which will host the 2016 Olympics, made 8,000 such visits.

Olympics visitors were high spenders

Those people who visited the UK primarily for an Olympics/Paralympics-based purpose spent an average of £1,553 on their visit, double that of people who visited at that time of year for other purposes.

This higher spend was not driven by length of stay: these people stayed an average of 8 nights in the UK compared with 9 nights among all visitors in July to September. 

London received a boost in earnings during 2012 while the rest of England, Scotland and Wales didn’t, but this is not dissimilar to recent years

Most of the Olympics and Paralympics activities took place in the South East of England and pertinent questions are how did changes in visits and earnings vary between different regions of the UK in 2012?  And how does that picture compare with recent years? 


  • 364,000 (77%) of the 471,000 visitors to the UK primarily for an Olympics/Paralympics-based purpose stayed at least one night in London.

  • The total number of overnight visits to London (for any purpose) in 2012 was 1.1% higher compared with 2011.

  • Earnings associated with overnight visits to London increased by £700 million (7.0%) compared with 2011.

Rest of England

  • 96,000 of the 471,000 Olympics/Paralympics visits involved an overnight stay in the rest of England.  A proportion (the exact number is unknown) will have stayed here but spent the main part of the visit, and spend, in London.

  • Total visits to the rest of England in 2012 were 1.1%% lower than in 2011.

  • And earnings from these visits fell by 0.9%


  • 8,000 of the Olympics/Paralympics visits involved an overnight stay in Scotland.

  • Total visits to Scotland in 2012 were 5.3% lower than in 2011.

  • Earnings from these visits were 6.3% lower


  • 7,000 of the Olympics/Paralympics visits involved an overnight stay in Wales.

  • Total visits to Wales in 2012 were 2.9% lower than in the same period a year earlier.

  • Earnings from these visits were 5.6% lower

So, London fared better than the other regions of the UK in terms of attracting visits and spending by overseas residents in 2012.  However, over the preceding two years a similar pattern was observed.  Visits to London grew by 7.6% from 2009 to 2011 and earnings grew by 14.2%.  This was a larger increase than in the other regions.  In the rest of England visits and earnings both grew by less than 1%, in Scotland visits fell by 7.6% although earnings grew by 9.1%, and in Wales both visits and earnings fell.

Helping to understand the Games’ Legacy

The International Passenger Survey publishes estimates of visits (and associated spending) to and from the UK each month, and detailed regional breakdowns including nights spent and profile of visits every quarter.  These estimates will provide readers with important data to help understand how travel and tourism to the UK develops in the months and years following the Games.


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Categories: Travel and Transport, People and Places, People, Tourism
Content from the Office for National Statistics.
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