Tourism chiefs have shown how the UK can benefit from the Olympics as figures demonstrated that overseas visitors flocked to the UK even before the Games.
Foreign residents made 3.3% more trips to the UK last year than in 2010, staying longer and spending more money, figures from the Office for National Statistics revealed.
These overseas visitors stayed for 3.2% more nights last year than in 2010 and spent 6.5% more money during their trips.
Foreign residents made 15.3 million overnight visits to London in 2011, an increase of 584,000 (or 4%) from 2010, and spent an estimated £9.4 billion on visits to the capital.
Overnight visits to the rest of England grew by 3.4% to 13 million in 2011 while those to Scotland and Wales were broadly unchanged at 2.3 million and 0.9 million respectively.
UK residents made 2.3% more visits abroad, but they stayed for 2% fewer nights and spent 0.4% less money on these visits in 2011, compared with 2010.
The average visit by UK residents to Europe last year grew by 3.5%, while those to North America grew by 0.4% and those to other countries fell by 2.6%.
At a media conference in London today, VisitBritain chief executive Sandie Dawe said overseas visitor numbers to the UK for the first five months of this year were up 7%, and their spending up 5%, compared with the January-May 2011 period.
She said the Olympics and the four-year tourism campaign being mounted by VisitBritain would, it was hoped, boost overseas visitor numbers by 4.6 million by 2015, with spending by these visitors rising by £2.3 billion.
Ms Dawe went on: "Billions around the world will watch the Olympics and we aim to benefit from this massive global exposure.
"This will be the first social media Games. Everyone is a reporter now. We hope those who visit will be sending back the message 'Having a great time'."
Tourism Minister John Penrose said: "I am sure the Olympics are going to be a wonderful sporting event and they will give people overseas a sense of what Britain is all about.
"This is a tremendous opportunity to get people to come here next year and the year after."