A big rise in American travellers helped Channel Tunnel high-speed train company Eurostar to increase passenger numbers in the first half of this year, it was announced today.
The company, which runs services from London to Paris and Brussels, carried 4.7 million passengers in the period January-June 2011 - a 3% rise on the same period last year.
The strong increase in passengers originating from the USA contributed to a 21% rise - to more than half a million - in the number of international travellers on Eurostar trains in the first half of this year.
There was also a 9% rise in business-class revenue which helped the company's overall sales revenue reach £421 million in the first six months of 2011 - a 4% increase on the January-June 2010 period.
The growth for Eurostar came despite a particularly strong first half of 2010 which saw the company put on extra trains due to cater for would-be air travellers caught up in the first Icelandic ash cloud crisis.
Eurostar said demand for bookings over the summer 2011 period was high and that more than 950,000 passengers were expected to travel in July alone.
Eurostar chief executive Nicolas Petrovic said: "Despite the pressures on household budgets, consumers are choosing to prioritise leisure travel over other discretionary purchases.
"In this difficult economic climate, we are finding that customers attach even greater value to their leisure time and are protecting short breaks and time away with family and friends."
He went on: "The growth in the number of travellers heading for London earlier in the year has gathered momentum, and in the first half (of the year) international bookings have gone up by over 20%.
"With London 2012 and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee on the horizon, London is highly attractive and remains a 'hot' destination for international visitors."