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Olympics 'toxic' to tourism

The European Tour Operators Association has warned that the London Olympics may well turn out to be toxic to tourism in the UK. The ETOA's latest report says: "The problem is not restricted to the host city. London is the gateway to the UK and its biggest draw. If you remove London from a visit to the British Isles, everywhere else becomes far more difficult to sell. Athens has nothing like the central importance that London occupies, yet when its visitor arrivals dropped by 6% in the Olympic year, regional Greece fell by 11%."

"Precisely because London is one of the top international destinations, it has more to lose. At the moment a false expectation of bookings is in danger of destroying an export industry," said the ETOA executive director, Tom Jenkins. "For August 2012, ETOA members – who alone regularly deliver over 15,000 hotel rooms per day – cannot reserve space. Without any reservations to sell, nothing can be sold."

A spokesman for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport dismissed the report saying: "This is a weary old story. No one seriously believes that any tourist accommodation will remain unfilled during the Games themselves."

However, the ETOA is not the only organisation issuing warnings. PriceWaterhouseCoopers has recently warned hoteliers not to expect a bonanza from the Olympics. VistBritain itself has also warned that visitor numbers would not be maintained during the Olympics. The ETOA points out Sydney in 2000 received 97,000 foreign visitors rather than the anticipated 132,000, Athens expected 105,000 in 2004 and saw fewer than 14,000 while, in August 2008, Beijing only received 234,000 instead of the anticipated 400,000 foreign guests.

A weary old story this may be but that doesn't make it untrue. I remember watching Tom Jenkins being interviewed on BBC TV London News. The interviewer just couldn't accept what he was saying and insisted several times that the Olympics would be wonderful. Wonderful they may be, said Mr Jenkins, but they won't deliver any tourism benefits!

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