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British Tourism Falls During Games

2012 London Olympic StadiumAccording to a survey by UKinbound of over 250 tour operators, visitor attractions and hoteliers, the Olympic Games brought less tourist money to the recession-hit country than businesses had hoped. It says most tourism companies reported losses during the period compared to last year. This comes as the survey found that tourist traffic dropped across the UK – not just in London.

UKinbound is a leading trade association that represents British tour operators and other tourism businesses. According to tourism officials, international visitors in London for the Games – including athletes, officials, spectators and regular tourists – amounted to about 300,000. The total number of travellers who visited or avoid London for the summer is still being counted by officials. There are usually 1.5 million tourists in the British capital during an average August, and it’s not clear yet if this number has increased or decreased this year. The official figures aren’t due to be posted until September.

The majority of people visiting venues for the events were domestic spectators. The UKinboud research found that 88% of its members reported some kind of loss during the Games in comparison to the same period in 2011. Shops and restaurants have been complaining that visitors for the Games didn’t spend as much money on shopping and food as their normal summer tourists.

British Hospitality Association (BHA) spokesman Miles Quest says the travellers who went to the Games didn’t really do much sightseeing, shopping or eating out. He added that hotels in London hit around 80% occupancy, which is lower than usual in August. City Cruises chief executive Rita Beckwith commented that the Games period was very disappointing for the company, which offers sightseeing tours along the River Thames. They knew the Games would negatively impact international tourist numbers to the capital, but the impact on the rest of the country and domestic visitors choosing to stay away was very disappointing.

UKinbound chief executive Mary Rance said many people believed London would be busy and expensive during the Games. They aren’t totally surprised with the outcome, she noted, but they were a little disappointed that the event seemed to impact the whole country, not just the capital. Some businesses posted a 10% to 30% decline in visitor numbers.

Despite all of this, there were some positives to come from the Games. Visa, the only credit card that the special venues accepted, reported that international visitors charged over £450 million to their cards in the first week of the events. This was 8% more than the same week last year. About £12.7 million was also spent at London restaurants last week – up nearly 20% compared to a year ago.

London and Partners, which oversees the British capital’s tourism industry, said it expected the lower number of visitors this summer. However, it insists that it’s more important to focus on the Games’ long-term effect, which has the potential to bring in more tourists. They are working with tour operators now to promote the Games’ legacy. They want to turn the millions of people who watched the events from home into visitors, so they can experience the new attractions and exciting places they saw on their televisions.

This comes as London Mayor Boris Johnson has said that the Games was money well spent, as visitors gave a big boost to theatres, restaurants and nightclubs during the two weeks. He says eight out of ten hotel rooms were full, which is much more than the Sydney and Beijing Games. The government has predicted that the country will get £13 billion in intangible economic benefits during the coming years due to the Games.

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