London Games spark tourist numbers debate

Tue Nov 8, 2011 5:03am EST
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By Peter Myers

LONDON (Reuters) - Tour operators organising trips to Britain are seeing an average 90 percent downturn in bookings during the London 2012 Olympics, a survey by an industry group said, with sports fans failing to compensate for those wanting to avoid a packed city.

The warning has sparked a debate about the immediate impact on tourism of the July 27-August 12 2012 Games and its longer-term effects.

The European Tour Operators Association (ETOA) surveyed 28 of its members, responsible for two million tourists per year, and estimates that approximately 3.5 billion pounds ($5.6 billion) could be lost to the UK economy during this time for both satellite venues and the capital city.

"The expectations of visitor numbers currently circulating within the hotel industry are hugely inflated," said Tom Jenkins, executive director of ETOA.

"If UK businesses are basing their plans on data in some prominent visitor forecasts, London will suffer financially, as has been experienced by previous host cities."

The British Hospitality Association (BHA) told Reuters that the ETOA forecast was alarmist.

"We believe demand will be strong and prices will thus find their own level," it said in a statement.

"There will be some displacement but the Games will attract a new market and they will raise the profile of Britain to such an extent that they will leave a very long-term legacy."   Continued...

<p>Commuters walk past the Olympic Rings, the symbol of the Olympic Games, at St Pancras international station in London March 3, 2011. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh</p>