UK is showing us the way, in sport and tourism

Britain is throwing bucket loads of money at keeping London in demand as it approaches its first anniversary of hosting the Olympic Games.

Far from the void that Sydney suffered after "the best Olympic Games ever", London and Britain are still going for gold, with a multi-million dollar marketing campaign and more celebrations.

The country has learned from others' mistakes and its efforts to avoid the Olympic curse are working, with the Australian travel industry reporting big demand for London and beyond.

Official figures show Australian visitors to Britain were up 12 per cent on last year for the period from January to April, while overall trends point to us staying longer and spending more.

In fairness to Sydney, Britain has had the advantage of a raft of events, with the 2011 royal wedding, 2012 Olympics and 2012 Diamond Jubilee all giving the country huge exposure.

The impending arrival of a royal baby doesn't hurt, either.

Demand from Australian travellers has been further boosted by a favourable exchange rate and cheap flights; a dream combination for visitor arrivals.

The managing director of Trafalgar Australia, Matthew Cameron-Smith, says the company has seen a "phenomenal increase" in bookings for Britain, up 44 per cent on last year.

"There's no doubt that London has put Britain firmly back on the map," he says.

"As London continues to thrive on the legacy of the Olympics, we're seeing a knock-on effect to other areas of Britain and Ireland."

Creative Holidays, which caters for independent travellers, says its bookings are "significantly up" on last year and more than 30 per cent of all its European business is to London.

Managing director Paul McGrath says a wide range of European flight options means people no longer have to travel through London, indicating they are choosing to spend time in the city.

STA Travel says London is particularly hot with young travellers; in the company's top three destinations.

Product director Andrea Robinson reports double-digit growth in numbers to London compared to last year, partly due to flight affordability.

Robinson says there has been an increase in the amount of time Australians are spending in Britain, with a desire to explore beyond London.

London has long been a must-do for under-30s but the Olympic Games and Jubilee celebrations have taken it to a new level.

"Great Britain's incredibly vibrant culture, music and fashion make it particularly attractive for students and youth," Robinson says.

"The relatively strong Aussie dollar against the British pound also contributes to the urgency to get over there."

For those who need convincing, Britain has so far spent £25 million ($41.3 million) on a 'GREAT' international marketing campaign, targeting 14 major cities including Sydney and Melbourne.

A further £15 million ($24.8 million), including some private sector funds, is set to be invested this financial year, to ensure the Olympic ball is not dropped.

Britain has also partnered with Emirates on a £2 million, two-year marketing campaign, to promote Britain overseas.

All this will be needed for the country to meet its ambitious growth targets, which include attracting 40 million international visitors a year by 2020 – up from 31 million last year.

Australia is expected to be a major contributor, with Britain targeting 1.2 million Aussie visitors a year by 2020.

Australian travellers spent a record $1.65 billion in Britain in 2012 and this is expected to grow to more than $2 billion a year.

Our affinity with sports is to be exploited, with events in Britain this year including the Ashes series and the Rugby League World Cup.

Next year, Yorkshire will host the Grand Depart of the Tour de France, while Glasgow will have the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

In the meantime, London will be putting on a big party later this month, to mark 12 months since the Olympic Games opened.

The Olympic Park precinct, which has been renamed Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, will host a two-day, ticketed party on July 27 and 28, with events including big-name music acts, a food festival, children's activities, theatre and art.

It will then host the capital's first annual cycling festival, RideLondon, the following weekend.

The park is to be re-opened to the public in phases as Olympic infrastructure is removed or repurposed, with the full opening to take place in the first half of 2014.

Olympic venues

While many of London's Olympic venues will not open to the public until next year, you can try your luck on the water.

The Lee Valley White Water Centre, about 40 minutes from London, is offering white water rafting on the Olympic course, or you can take sailing lessons at the Olympic host venue of Weymouth in Dorset.

Dorney Lake, known as 'Eton Dorney' during the Games, offers rowing classes in the evenings, or less serious paddlers can paddle the Thames and see Eton College and Windsor Castle with London Kayak Tours.