By Marcus Leach

Despite London hosting the Olympics and Paralympics this the number of visitors to the UK fell in August, according to official data released today (Thursday).

However, despite the drop in number of visitors, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that the amount spent by those who did visit increased.

Overseas residents made three million visits to the UK in the month, down 5% from August 2011, with spending up 9% on August 2011. The rise for spending could be attributed to the Olympics.

The ONS estimated that 590,000 people in July and August normally resident outside the UK had visited and attended at least one ticketed Olympic or Paralympic event, of whom 420,000 visited primarily for the games.

"[Wet weather] is a very important factor to consider alongside the Olympics and other things like exchange rates, which may have an impact on visits," Roger Smith from the ONS told BBC News.

Jason Conibear, trading director of the foreign exchange specialists Cambridge Mercantile, said that tourism should not be overlooked in terms of what it contributes to the economy.

"The Pound's sustained weakness continues to be one of the UK tourist industry's greatest assets," he said.

"More foreigners are visiting the UK, and crucially they are spending more. The 5% jump in tourist spending over the past year is in stark contrast to timid domestic demand.

"At around 9% of UK GDP, tourism is an oft-overlooked industry, but it is a major earner of foreign exchange.

"With official austerity eroding British consumer confidence, foreign visitors are picking up the slack in the UK's leisure and retail sectors.

"British retailers are particularly keen to attract high-spending visitors, with Chinese tourists particularly prized. Luxury brands like Burberry have been instrumental in drawing in well-heeled and free-spending foreigners to Britain's designer outlet malls.

"This surge in visitor numbers was recorded before the Olympics, which bodes particularly well for the third quarter. The Olympic influx in July and August should make the next quarter's numbers even more impressive."

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