There is no doubt that British patriotism is at an all-time high after last year's Diamond Jubilee, followed by the hugely successful Olympic Games, and now we're back in the global spotlight with the birth of the 'Prince of Cambridge'. The media has been unanimous in celebrating "brand Britain", but how does this translate to how the UK is viewed by the rest of the world?
A year after the spectacular opening ceremony which marked the start of the London 2012, what impact has the UK's golden moment left on British tourism? Aside from a renewed sense of national pride and a fresh focus on our sporting prowess, the UK has benefitted from a significant boost in inbound tourism from several countries worldwide.
Visit Britain has reported a 1% increase in international visitor numbers during 2012 and a 4% increase in visitor spend. This is especially impressive when you consider that previous host countries have typically experienced a dip in tourism due to displacement as a result of the Games.
What's more, the latest data from the Office for National Statistics shows a 2% increase in visits to the UK by overseas residents in 2013 to date (January to May) compared with a year earlier, and an impressive 10% increase in earnings to the UK from these visits - providing a welcome boost to our struggling economy!
Looking ahead, VisitBritain has forecast that an extra 1 million overseas tourists will come to the UK in 2013, and total overseas tourist spend in the UK is expected to exceed £19 billion for the first time. We have seen this reflected by the level of interest from international visitors on Hotels.com, with demand for hotels growing across all UK cities that hosted Olympic events last year.
In London, we have seen an 81% increase in searches for hotels by Hungarian visitors and a 76% rise in searches in Germany during the first six months of 2013, following both countries success at the Olympic Games. Hungary ranked ninth in the Olympic medal table while Germany took sixth place.
The Japanese - who were the third highest spenders on UK hotel rooms last year according to the 2012 Hotels.comHotel Price Index - took third place, with a 53% increase versus the first half of 2012. The capital is also proving popular with visitors from New Zealand and South Korea, with searches rising by 45% and 38% respectively.
However, Britain's Olympic legacy stretches far beyond London. Cities across the UK are benefiting from renewed interest from tourists worldwide, as visitors see the UK in a new light. Manchester, which hosted a number of football and basketball matches at the Old Trafford and MEN arenas, has seen a huge increase in interest from Russia; searches for accommodation in the city have grown by 218%. Searches are also rising in New Zealand, up by 58% on last year.
Some of the biggest increases have been seen in Cardiff. The Welsh city hosted several men's and women's football games at the Millennium Stadium and its moment in the spotlight now seems to be paying off. Interest in Cardiff is growing amongst travellers from Russia and Hungary, while Glasgow, which hosted the first event of the 2012 Games at Hampden Park, is proving particularly popular with visitors from New Zealand.
The government recently announced a £10 billion economic boost as a result of London 2012. The aim over the next four years is to generate an extra 4.7 million visitors to the UK and raise an extra £2.3 billion of tourism spend from international tourist visitors. In the longer term, VisitBritain, the national tourism board, has aspirations to attract 40 million visitors a year by 2020.
It is clear that a year in the spotlight helped the UK achieve one of its best years for tourism in 2012, so it's great to see that this is continuing. The Olympic Games showcased a modern and multicultural image of the UK, and visitors now recognise that there is more to Britain than just London. Investments made to improve tourist attractions and modernise accommodation ahead of last year's Games will also have a lasting legacy, helping to ensure that the UK remains a world-class tourist destination for many years to come.