Less than 10 days after tour operators claimed the London 2012 Olympics are causing visitors to shun the capital, VisitBritain has produced research which it claims shows that the Games host cities are becoming increasingly popular with tourists.
However, VisitBritain's release gave only visitor numbers for last year with no comparisons with previous years. Neither did it compare the popularity of host cities with those that are not hosting the Games.
It did say that host cities Cardiff, Glasgow, Manchester and Newcastle were benefiting from more international interest, but gave only visitor numbers for last year.
Manchester, which will host both the men's and women's Olympic football matches, attracted 811,000 visitors in 2010, making it the third most popular of the host cities behind London and Edinburgh; Glasgow, which will also host football matches attracted 551,000, placing it in the top five cities in the UK.
VisitBritain's Mark Di-Toro said: "What we want to highlight from the report is that Olympic cities are becoming increasingly credible tourist destinations and that it is not just London that will be showcased.
"We are all about creating a legacy for Britain around these events for many many years and not just the year of 2012, whatever the visitor numbers may be.
"The report highlights the fact that there are seven Olympic cities already in the top 20 for international visits in 2010. We now have the perfect showcase event to build on these numbers."
The report showed that Bath leapfrogged seven cities to become the eleventh most stayed in town, but this is not one of the host cities. Southampton, which will host only the Olympic Torch but none of the Games, has entered the top 20 UK cities for the first time.
Earlier this month, inbound operators said they had seen a 90% drop in bookings during the Games, claiming that 'normal' visitors would stay away. The European Tour Operators Association predicted prices would fall closer to the event.
By Linsey McNeill
Thursday, November 17, 2011