The travel trade should welcome the government’s £7 million GREAT Britain advertising campaign for driving much needed sales in early summer.
Andy Washington, UK managing director of Expedia, said the industry had to realise that it is bigger than just two large tour operators taking holidaymakers overseas.
He said Expedia had seen huge growth from domestic trips, with double-digit growth last year and further expansion expected in 2012 due to the Royal Jubilee and the London Olympics.
“The government is running this campaign because people are actually demanding British holidays,” Washington told last week’s WTM Vision conference in London.
“The industry has been crying out for June bookings for years, well here it is. The UK always gets put down, but why? The industry is not just about two big tour operators going overseas. The industry is bigger than that. This is about the travel market.”
The GREAT Britain campaign, designed to convince Brits to stay at home during Olympic year rather than fly away on holiday, was roundly condemned by the industry as a waste of money.
Even some domestic operators have said it was a waste of funds because the domestic bookings were coming in anyway and they disliked the way is disparaged the idea of going abroad.
Tui Travel UK managing director Dave Burling said the operator was not seeing evidence of an impact on bookings during the Olympics period. He added the impact of the European football championships was more of an unknown and depended on how long England stay in the tournament.
Washington said with thousands of hotel rooms not sold by the Olympics organising committees around the world now flooding back into the market, prices have started to come down.
He also said Expedia has seen evidence of visitors flying into regional airports to stay outside of London but commute in during the Games, or taking an extended stay in the UK.
WTM Vision was told the Olympics will see an additional 333,000 international visitors come to the UK, according to Euromonitor forecasts.
Caroline Bremner, international head of travel and tourism research at Euromonitor, said the UK will welcome 29.4 million international visitors this year, a 2% increase on 2011, or 588,000.
The number of international visitors coming for London 2012 represents less than 1% of the total UK inbound market. However, Bremner said domestic visitors were crucial to the success of the games, pointing out that around 70% of the eight million tickets sold had gone to British people.
EasyJet UK managing director Paul Simmons said that the airline had seen "no significant impact on bookings" because of the Olympics and suggested that "BA would probably say the same".
Hoseasons Group managing director Geoff Cowley said his business had participated in the government-backed 20.12% promotion because it wanted to be part of the legacy that domestic tourism would benefit from after the Games.
Reed Travel Exhibitions chairman World Travel Market Fiona Jeffery said: "Euromonitor's findings suggest that while the number of international visitors may appear modest, the real benefit of London 2012 could be the long-term boost to domestic tourism."
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