Trade body says UK tourism slumped during Olympics
LONDON (AP) — The Olympics brought less tourist money to recession-hit Britain than officials expected, a trade group said Monday, with a majority of tourist businesses reporting losses from last year.
A survey of more than 250 tour operators, hoteliers and visitor attractions found that tourist traffic fell all over Britain, not just London, said UKinbound, a leading trade association representing British tour operators, shops and hotels. The survey said 88 percent of British tourism-oriented businesses reported some losses during the games compared to the same period last year.
"As an industry we knew the games would have a negative impact on international visitor numbers to London but the impact on the rest of the U.K., combined with domestic visitors staying away, has been deeply disappointing," said Rita Beckwith, chief executive of London's City Cruises, a member of UKinbound.
Officials are still tallying up the total number of tourists who came to — or avoided — London this summer. The capital normally sees about 1.5 million tourists on average in August, but UKinbound and other trade groups say a significant number have chosen to steer clear of London, and even the rest of Britain because they thought it would be too busy.
The official visitor figures won't be available until September.
Tourism officials say that international Olympics visitors to London, including athletes, officials and tourists, totaled about 300,000. Domestic spectators from Britain made up the majority of people visiting games venues.
Restaurants and shops have complained that these games visitors did not spend as much money on food and shopping as typical summer tourists.
"The people who came to the games really didn't do very much sightseeing, didn't do very much shopping, didn't do very much eating out," said Miles Quest, a spokesman for the British Hospitality Association.
London's hotels have hit about 80 percent occupancy, which is not higher than typical August rates, Quest added.
There were some positive signs. Visa, the only credit card accepted at the Olympics venues, reported that international visitors to Britain spent more than 450 million pounds ($705 million) on their cards during the first week of the games, up by 8 percent on the same time last year.
Around 12.7 million pounds were spent on Visa cards in London restaurants last week, an increase of almost 20 percent on a year ago.