Good news for London's Olympics as Visa proves 'mega-events' mean mega-visits

A new study from global payment giant Visa has shown that events such as the World Cup and Olympic Games - so called mega-events - deliver a boost in tourism for the host country which extends long past the date of the event.

The study, conducted by analyzing spend on Visa cards in South Africa during the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Vancouver during the 2010 Winter Olympics and Beijing during the 2008 Olympic Games, showed that arrivals to host cities rose throughout the year of the major sporting event, not just for the duration of the event itself.

The figures will be good news for London, which is expecting a bump in global travel as it prepares to host the 2012 Olympics Games.

The figures showed that spending by Visa cardholders in South Africa last year was up on 2009 all year round, rising a massive 84 percent during the World Cup period in June.

However, there was also a considerable jump in interest at the beginning of the year, with spend amounts up 12 percent and 11 percent in January and February respectively.

In Vancouver, Canada during last year's Winter Olympics tournament, it was a similar story, with every month of 2010 showing an increase (an average of 10.4 percent) despite, as Visa observed, the fact that "inbound tourism was reeling from the global economic crisis."

For the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008, the overall rise in spending was lower but still noticeable, with the month immediately prior to the games showing that tourism was on the rise independently of the event.

Overall, Visa's results seem to bear out the claim by events organizers that such spectacles deliver a substantial economic and tourism boost to their host nations.

London, expected to see a £621 million ($988 billion) spending boost during the games, will be breathing a sigh of relief.

Hey big spender
Which countries' visitors spent the most during the past three mega-events?

FIFA World Cup, South Africa 2010

1. USA
2. United Kingdom
3. Australia
4. Brazil
5. France

Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, Canada

1. USA
2. China
3. United Kingdom
4. Russian Federation
5. Australia

Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, China

1. USA
2. Hong Kong
3. United Kingdom
4. South Korea
5. Japan

Source: Visa

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