By Nick Butler

London 2012 has boosted the number of visitors to Britain and London in the long term as well as the short term ©Getty ImagesHosting the Olympic and Paralympics Games in 2012 has been heralded as contributing to the 16.8 million international tourists who visited London in 2013, a rise of nine per cent on the previous year. 

According to a survey released in the Office for National Statistics' International Passenger Survey, the numbers are the highest since records began in 1961, and saw over a million more visitors than ever before.

It is thought the attention the capital received during the Olympics and Paralympics, as well as during the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations earlier in 2012, indirectly encouraged more visitors to attend, and provided more opportunities for them to do so.

Not only did more visitors attend, but they also spent more money on shopping, hotels, restaurants and sightseeing, amounting to a total of £11.3 billion ($19 billion/€13.9 billion) , almost a 10 per cent increase on the total for 2012.

While holiday remains the primary reason for visiting the city, accounting for 12.7 million visits, business trips and visiting friends and family also rose, to seven per cent and 4.2 per cent respectively. 

"These record breaking figures are a tribute to the outstanding mix of culture, art, music and sport to be found here," said London Mayor Boris Johnson.

"And more is planned.

"With major international sporting events including the Rugby World Cup and the Tour de France and the spectacular exhibitions at the Tate and British Museum this year, it is clear that this wonderful city will not rest on its laurels."

Danny Homan, communications and development director of Historic Royal Palaces, added: "We attribute the uplift in visitor numbers to strong inbound tourism following the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics in 2012, and also to the enduring popularity of London's extraordinary heritage."

The Rugby World Cup in 2015 will be another major event set to boost tourism in London and Britain in future years ©Getty ImagesThe Rugby World Cup in 2015 will be another major event set to boost tourism in London and Britain in future years ©Getty Images

These figures are significant considering the feeling prevalent among vast swathes of the western world that it is not worth the expense of bidding for a Games in the current economic climate.

This led to the withdrawal of Stockholm from the race to host the 2022 Olympic and Paralympics in January, as well as the problems currently being faced by the bids of Oslo and Kraków, and the reluctance of many cities to commit to a bid for the 2024 Summer Games.  

In Britain there was similar antipathy ahead of the Games, and disagreements remain today over how strong the legacy benefits have actually been.

But at least some impact has also been felt outside the capital, with a GfK Anholt Nations Brand Index (NBI) released earlier this year ranking the country as the third most popular nation in the world.

Only the United States and Germany are ranked higher.

The NBI, compiled annually following scores collated from 20,000 consumers across 20 differing panel countries, sees respondents score the 50 nations in the index on issues spanning tourism, culture and the welcome-provided.

Britain scored particularly highly in the "welcome" and "natural beauty" categories, areas in which they have been traditionally lowly ranked, with Sandie Dawe, chief executive of national tourism agency VisitBritain, claiming "these results prove that Britain has retained, and built on, the global image boost of hosting the Olympics". 

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