The wait is finally over as the London 2012 Olympics kicks off with the opening ceremony this evening. BigHospitality rounds up what the 17-day event could bring for your business and looks at whether it will actually have an overall positive effect on the hospitality industry or not.
We’ve given you a practical four-part Planning for the 2012 Olympics guide, taken a walking tour of central London with TfL to find out about logistical issues and discussed all of the final preparations – and now it’s finally upon us.
The London 2012 Olympics present a major opportunity for restaurants, hotels and pubs in London and across the UK. But will the event bring the fillip to business that so many expect?
Preparations for restaurants have been generally very much on-track, with more than a third (37 per cent) of London-based businesses, including restaurants, hotels, and pubs, stockpiling non-perishable goods in preparation for the Games to help reduce deliveries.
Lucy Harwood, managing director of Las Iguanas, told BigHospitality she believes a number of their restaurants will see a real sales boost over the Olympic period. “In London, we will absolutely see sales increase,” she said. “Especially with certain factors such as shopping centres having increased Sunday trading hours.
“We’re also doing some promotions tied in with it all. Generally, there’s a level of activity going on in London at the moment which we expect to be beneficial to us, particularly for our Westfield Stratford and South Bank restaurants.”
Rohit Chugh, ex-managing director of Cinnamon Club and founder of Roti Chai restaurant just off Oxford Street, is more apprehensive.
He said: “A lot of people are nervous about travelling into central London and I wouldn’t be surprised at all, if, over the next few weeks more local restaurants do really well out of this.
"In all honesty, I’m not even trying to call it now. I think what we’ve seen is that it’s really just fluctuates every day. We’re just going to have to play it by ear and see what happens in the next few weeks. I can see certainly why certain parts of town are going to empty out, but the chances are that September will be busier, so it’s swings and roundabouts.”
Despite yesterday’s report that hotels in London have slashed their prices by 17 per cent, occupancy rates in the capital have shot past the 80 per cent mark and the average price of a hotel room in London during the Olympics is has increased by 26 per cent compared to the same period in 2011, with one night in the capital costing £210.
All-in-all, the majority of hoteliers are feeling optimistic about the legacy that the Olympics will leave behind.
“Many operators are encouraged by the global awareness of the capital as a destination and the on-going improvements in infrastructure," said Liz Hall, head of hospitality and leisure research at PwC. "Others, however, have voiced concerns about the supply spike and how it will be absorbed. If there is a post-Games travel dip, trading could get very difficult – especially in East London.”
Slight concerns have also been raised about the impact on the UK hotel sector during the Games. Twenty-nine per cent of hoteliers think only those in London will benefit, while 18 per cent believe that the event won’t bring any benefits at all to hotels outside the M25.
And apprehension over the positive impact of the Olympics on the hotel sector isn’t just confined to those areas outside of London. Less than a third (29.8 per cent) of London hotel managers believe the 2012 Olympics will influence the growth of their business this year.
Last year, Jonathan Ragget, managing director of Red Carnation hotels, told BigHospitality that 'anyone who thinks London hotels will be full for the London 2012 Olympics are kidding themselves’.
The pub industry in London has, on the whole, showed a level of optimism around the effects of the Games. Even with over a year to go, Capital Pub Company, London's largest free house operator, predicted strong sales through to and beyond the London Olympics.
In February, London pub operator Gresham Inns has reported that 90 per cent of its rooms in the capital have already been sold for the period of the 2012 Olympics. This positivity is echoed throughout most London pubs and alluded to by our sister title The Publican’s Morning Advertiser (PMA) today.
Paul McGilloway, licensee of the Langthorne pub on Stratford’s Broadway, told the PMA: “There is definitely going to be a boost. We have got a lot of people out there, and by the station, trying to get people to the pub. We have decorated the whole pub, and will be opening at 7am for breakfast and later in the evenings.
“We are really pushing the best of British with our beers and food. I think it is going to be busy - I thought it would be busier at the moment but I think a few of the locals have gone on holiday. Day by day we are seeing new faces arrive and we are just waiting for it to start now. Let’s see what happens.”
However, despite being just a stone’s throw from the Olympic park, there are some pub operators in Stratford that have yet seen any added footfall, with the nearby Westfiled Stratford Shopping centre deterring trade.
Jigar Patel, a spokesperson for Rocky Raj, which recently acquired the ‘King Eddies’ pub, said: “Currently, Westfield Stratford is not really helping us. All of the pre-Olympic tourists that are coming in from the tube stations are being diverted straight to the Olympic park on the opposite side of Stratford, rather than them coming to this side.
“People coming from the trains are going to go straight to the Olympic Park. But I do think there are always going to be passers-by and people will be wondering round after the Games, so it will hopefully increase.”