Summary: As London welcomes visitors from around the world for the start of the Olympics this week, official tourism figures were released covering 2011. Total visits to England were up by over a million compared to 2010, and total visitor spend is up significantly as well.
What does the chart show? The grey bars in the above chart show the total number of visitors to England each year, in millions, measured against the left hand axis. The two lines represent the total amount spent by visitors to London (in red) and the rest of England (in blue) each year in billions of pounds (measured against the right hand axis). This is in current prices (so does not take inflation into account).
Why is the chart interesting? It is interesting to see the changing fortunes of English tourism, from the rapid increase in visitors between 2003 and 2006 to the sudden drop-off in 2009 and the slow recovery since. Through all of this, the total income earned from visitors has continued to rise, particularly in London (and the gap between visitor spend in London and in the rest of England has increased significantly since 2003).
Despite the risk of a displacement effect, the London 2012 Olympics are expected to attract an extra 10.8 million tourists and £2bn in extra expenditure by foreign citizens between 2005 and 2017, according to a report by Oxford Economics and Lloyds Banking Group. However, most of this increase is expected to affect London more than the rest of the country, so we will probably see the gap between London and the rest of England open up even more in the coming years.