Inbound tour operators have reported a collapse in business for the period of the London Olympics, with advance bookings down 95%.
Tom Jenkins, chief executive of the European Tour Operators Association, blamed the decline on “a hangover from the hyperbole needed to land the Olympics”. He said: “My members have seen a 95% decline in business in August.”
Jenkins told members of the Chartered Institute of Marketing Travel Industry Group (Cimtig) last night: “Every Games has exaggerated the numbers coming; every Games has been bitterly disappointed and most Games saw a slump in visitors afterwards.”
Addressing a Cimtig Question Time in London, Jenkins said: “People believe the hyperbola, prices go up, the numbers don’t match and, because the core market stays away, it means a hangover.”
Referring to past Olympics hosts, Jenkins said: “Athens had 15,000 beds and didn’t fill them. Barcelona had 12,000 and almost filled them. London has 125,000 and the southeast a further 75,000. It’s going to have a tough time.”
Hugh Taylor, chief executive of hotel asset management company Michels & Taylor, disagreed. He said: “Hosting the Olympics is about perception of a city over a longer period. We have 5,000 journalists turning up in August.
“London is a hugely successful city. There is no evidence of too much supply. Occupancy is at record levels. Rates went up 10.5% last year. The Olympics will be a challenge, but I would be amazed if London didn’t fill this summer.”
British Airways UK head of sales Richard Tams said: “London will enjoy a halo effect from the Games. We see very positive inbound traffic [for the period] and a challenge for outbound, but with a spike before and after the Games.”
Tui Travel specialist and activity sector managing director John Wimbleton agreed outbound travel was likely to take a hit, saying: “Six weeks before the Olympics and six weeks after, tourism is a disaster.”
However, Jenkins said: “London has got to stay open for normal tourism. When a 25% decline in demand – as documented by Visit London – meets a 200% rise in price there can only be one outcome.”
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