After endless promises that the Olympics would be just the ‘pick me up’ Britain’s sadly floundering economy needed, the miraculous recovery has failed to materialise. The good news is that the games have attracted over 100,000 foreign tourists. The bad news is that a typical summer normally attracts 300,000 foreign tourists. Olympic fever has been great but it has also completely overshadowed all of the city’s other attributes. In fact, leading London attractions have seen visitor numbers fall by 35 per cent. Hotel bookings are down and the number of people hitting the shops on the first Friday and Saturday of the games was down 10-12 per cent on the same dates the year before. So where is everybody?
It seems the warnings of Olympic travel chaos may have been blown slightly out of proportion. Just as when Britain is hit by its one week of sun each summer, or similarly by its one week of snow each winter and everyone starts worrying that the tube is going to implode and children and old people are going to start passing out on every street corner, we seem to have typically over-reacted.
The messages urging visitors to stay away from London and its attractions at all costs have worked far too well. A third of the five million people who work in the capital are expected to heed warnings telling them to stay at home for at least some of the Olympic period. The normal tourists who would travel to London are also staying away due to fears of overcrowding. Saddest of all is the number of Londoners and Brits who are staying at home and therefore failing to enjoy the Olympic summer in their own capital due to the invisible travel mayhem. Of course peak times and stations should be avoided but there is no need to avoid London’s hotspots completely.
The Olympics was so hyped up that hotel owners across London pushed their prices up as little pound signs appeared in their eyes. However, many had to bring their prices abruptly down again in the few weeks leading up to the games. The increase in demand never materialised and many hotels remained half empty at a time of year when they are usually full.
Travel industry and business spokesmen have tried to quell fears by encouraging hoteliers and retailers to think of the long-term effects of the games. So far London has done a pretty good job at portraying itself favourably to the wider world. Surely this will translate to a tourism boom over the next few years. The opening ceremony captivated millions of people around the world with its tongue in cheek portrayal of British culture and the brilliant television coverage of the games has spectacularly highlighted some of London’s most impressive landmarks.Greenwich,Buckingham Palace and Hampton Court have all been milked to their full potential. This will likely lure in tourists over the next few years.
All Brits need to do now is get out and enjoy their own capital city. This is a once in a lifetime experience and we should be making the most of it. We need to help to boost our own economy with the new Olympic sense of positivity and confidence. Travel bosses are being pushed to reverse their demands that people steer clear of all forms public transport and instead it should be made clear thatLondonis open for business to one and all.