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For Visa, Gold Rush At London Games Extends Beyond Phelps, Olympic Medals

By Barry Janoff

August 8, 2012: There is a lot of gold to be found in London during the 2012 Summer Games, and not all of it is around the neck of Michael Phelps.

International travelers spent $716.7 million  above and beyond the normal rate on their Visa accounts while in the United Kingdom from July 30 – Aug. 5, according to Visa Inc., which is one of the top tier partners of the International Olympic Committee and the exclusive credit card of the London Games.

That raised the total spend on Visa accounts in the U.K. to more than $1.4 billion, according to the financial and credit card firm.

The $716.7 million was up from the nearly $700 million add-on by Visa card holders from July 23-29, just prior to the start of and then during the first two days of the Games. The Olympic Games began July 27 and will run through Aug. 12. Visa is expected to release an updated financial overview once the Games conclude.

Visa has been helping its own cause with a "Go World" global marketing campaign that the company called the largest Olympic-themed push in the 25 years it has been partnering with the Games. Ads have featured several athletes sponsored by Visa, including several with Phelps as well such athletes as Lopez Lomong, Allyson Felix, Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh.

The biggest Visa spenders come from the U.S. with a $91 million total. The top two categories in which credit cards were used during that time period were "services" at  $139.1 million (on items such as spas and shoe and jewelry repair) followed by "entertainment” at $106.6 million (including theater tickets and other attractions).

"Tourism is a vital component of economic growth for any nation, and it is exciting that Visa payment technology is making it possible for countries and regions around the world to have a bigger impact on the global economy," Kevin Burke, CMO for Core Products at Visa Inc., said in a statement.

The Top Ten contributing countries accounted for 57% of the total amount spent on Visa accounts in the U.K. during this time period. Behind the U.S. are Japan ($47.4 million), France ($44.5 million), Italy $42.1 million, Australia ($35.3 million), Republic of Ireland ($34.3 million), Spain $33.5 million), Germany ($33.3 million), Canada $25.3 million) and Sweden ($23.9 million).

Although not in the Top Ten, Visa account holders from Russia increased travel spend on their Visa accounts by more than 30%.

The Top Five categories behind "services" and "entertainment"  are "airlines” ($82.4 million), "clothing” ($67.9 million) and "other retail” ($66.3 million, which includes bike shops, bookstores, antique stores and drug stores).

“The Olympics are a showcase for athletics and innovation, and the same goes for tourism . . . Tourism is a vital component of economic growth for any nation."

Visa said it had more than 3,000 locations in and around Olympic venues that accept prepaid, "contactless" payments, mobile technologies and other payment options.

“The Olympics are a showcase for athletics and innovation, and the same goes for tourism,” said Burke. “It is easier than ever for international travelers safely to pay for goods and services with payment cards, 'contactless' smart cards or mobile technology. Visa’s spend data shows that more countries are able to take advantage of these payment innovations."

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