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London to suffer leisure tourism slump during Olympics: Survey


London : London is set to suffer a 95 percent leisure tourism slump during the 2012 Olympic Games, a survey said Sunday.

In a survey conducted amongst its members, the European Tour Operators Association (ETOA) discovered that a major slump in leisure tourism bookings is underway, Xinhua reported.

At the end of October, ETOA canvassed 38 operators, who move more than two million people annually to London. They revealed that they were expecting a significant downturn throughout 2012.

This looks like being extremely severe in July and August, where operators are currently seeing a 60 percent shortfall in bookings, becoming acute during the period of the Olympics where bookings are running at 95 percent below where they would normally be. Bookings for the rest of the year are running at 20 percent below this time last year.

“This is still very early in the booking cycle,” said Tom Jenkins, Executive Director of ETOA.

“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.”

“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” said John Boulding President of Insight Vacations, a leading luxury tour operator.

“Insight has won a Queens Award for Export, but 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.”

These figures represent only current trends in leisure tourism. These may change. They do not account for what corporate business may come, nor for those people who are coming for the Olympics.

But bookings for London will have to strengthen enormously to make up for this shortfall: London has 125,000 hotel rooms to fill. Foreign Olympic visitors averaged no more than 25,000 people per night in Athens. And July and August are normally the two busiest months for inbound tourists: they usually represent 22 percent of foreign visitor arrivals.

London is a gateway for the rest of the Britain. If Britain as a whole suffers an equivalent decline, then 3.5 billion pounds of business will be lost to the British economy as a whole during July and August alone.