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Visitor numbers fall during Olympics, 'golden opportunity' remains for hospitality

By Luke Nicholls , 12-Oct-2012
Last updated on 12-Oct-2012 at 17:31 GMT2012-10-12T17:31:01Z

Five per cent fewer international tourists visited the UK for the period of the London 2012 Olympics

Five per cent fewer international tourists visited the UK for the period of the London 2012 Olympics

With yesterday’s disappointing figures showing that the number of visitors to the UK fell in August, despite the Olympics, leading members of the hospitality and tourism industries have been quick to highlight the positives, insisting ‘we still have a golden opportunity within our grasp’.

The Office of National Statistics’ announced that 590,000 international tourists visited the UK in July and August – five per cent lower than the same time last year.

This may be due to fears of overcrowding due to the Games and the unseasonally wet weather.  But the amount spent by visitors, which includes their spending on Olympic tickets, was up 9 per cent on August 2011.

Grant Hearn, chief executive of budget hotel chain Travelodge, said: “A 5 per cent drop in overseas tourists to the UK during the most momentous month in the history of British tourism is very disappointing news.

“However all is not lost, we still have a golden opportunity within our grasp, as long as the Government takes action and does what it pledged to do - which is to use this extraordinary year to turbo-charge our tourism industry.

Years to come...

“The 2012 Games were never likely to be an instant boost for British tourism, Sydney and Barcelona both show that the real test of the Olympic effect will be seen in the years to come. However, experts predict that global tourism will increase by a 60 per cent by 2020 with 50 per cent of growth coming from the four BRIC countries: Brazil, Russia, India and China.”

Sandie Dawe, chief executive of national tourist board VisitBritain, also saw the positives, adding “The first six months of the year saw a record in terms of both the number of holiday arrivals and the amount of spend, and with August’s figures we are now at the same level as we were in 2011.

“Nearly 600,000 people have received the very warmest of British welcomes first hand as part of their Games experience, while millions of viewers around the world have seen Britain at its very best.

“To ensure that there is a golden legacy for tourism as a result of hosting London 2012, we have gone out in all of our key markets with the next phase of our GREAT campaign. The extraordinary exposure Britain received during the Games has provided us with an ideal platform to remind people around the world why a visit to Britain is a must, and we are working hard to deliver a strong finish to the year.”

Global tourism

With experts predicting global tourism will increase by a 60 per cent by 2020 with 50 per cent of growth coming from the four BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), Hearn went on to state that the Government should be doing more to allow UK hospitality businesses to tap into the emerging markets.

He added: “To seize the initiative in critical emerging markets, the US is already ahead of the game and is offering five-year Multiple-Entry Visas for Chinese nationals creating a 46 per cent increase in Chinese tourism since the start of the year. It’s a similar story in Europe, France gets eight times more Chinese visitors than the UK and Germany six times our amount. 

“Before the Olympic feel good factor fades, I urge the Prime Minister to develop a Government strategy including tourism trade agreements with China, India, Brazil and Russia to relax visa requirements.

“Every wealthy Indian or Chinese tourist lost to America, France and Germany is a lost opportunity to create jobs in the UK. It’s that simple.”

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