Games may cause leisure tourism slump


London’s leisure tourism industry could suffer a major slump during the Olympic Games, according to a survey.

Bookings taken by members of the European Tour Operators Association (ETOA) suggest leisure tourism could fall by about 95 per cent during next summer’s event.

Members of the travel association move more than two million people to London each year, but a survey of 38 of the group’s operators revealed a significant downturn in bookings for 2012.

Operators reported a 60 per cent shortfall in books for July and August, while bookings are some 95 per cent below where they would normally be during the Olympic Games. Bookings for the rest of 2012 are about 20 per cent behind the same time last year.

ETOA executive director Tom Jenkins said: “This is still very early in the booking cycle and only reflects what our normal leisure customers are doing. We always see a decline in demand for a destination during an Olympic year. Clients tend to think that a city has priorities other than being a place to visit for a normal holiday, so some of this was to be expected.

“But this tendency is becoming absolute as the hotel rates climb in July and August. During the Olympic period itself, there is currently almost no demand from regular tourists. For foreign visitors there is near total displacement by the Games.”

The figures produced by ETOA represent the current trends in leisure tourism and may change before next summer. Visitors on business and those looking to watch the Olympic Games are also not accounted for in the figures.

Meanwhile, president of luxury tour operator Insight Vacations John Boulding said: “One of the main reasons for the drop is that the hotels believe that they are going to be full. London appears to have priced itself out of the market in July and August. “We have had no choice but to remove London from our best-selling European ‘Panorama’ tours in July and August. Each one will start and finish on the continent. They are selling well, but they are selling without the UK.”

London acts as a gateway for the rest of Britain and should the whole country suffer a similar decline then £3.5bn of business will be lost from the economy during July and August.