The first solid sign of an economic payoff from hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics is here in the form of new statistics revealing a spike in spending by visitors to B.C.

New numbers from Statistics Canada suggest that spending by international visitors grew in the first quarter of the year at the highest rate since 2003, and the Olympics are being credited for the surge.

Officials with Tourism Vancouver are predicting a seven-per-cent increase in visitors this summer compared to 2009. They're spending $1 million on a post-Games marketing campaign, but the biggest challenge is still ahead, according to President Rick Antonson.

"How do you leverage the entire Olympic year as a springboard into the next decade of tourism for Vancouver and British Columbia? And, not to put too fine of a point on it, but whatever the next decade looks like will be determined a lot by what we do, in a marketing sense, or do not do in the next 24 months," Antonson told CTV News.

A TV commercial featuring familiar faces like Ryan Reynolds and Michael J. Fox was part of a $38-million B.C. government marketing campaign. New numbers from the province suggest it was seen a staggering 970 million times in North America.

Evidence of an Olympic payoff is not just showing up in Vancouver and Whistler. The Kamloops area has also seen a big spike in visitors.

"In my own region, it was reported this week that year-over-year hotel revenues are up 24 per cent, which is far beyond our expectations," Tourism Minister and Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Kevin Krueger said.

Olympic organizers are also predicting a major boost in tourism for B.C. and Canada.

"We were told of some global surveys and stuff the IOC had done post-Games, which apparently had very impressive numbers -- extraordinarily impressive numbers -- which they're assessing," VANOC CEO John Furlong said.

Watch CTV News at Six for a report from CTV British Columbia's Mike Killeen