Following the end of the London 2012 Olympics and at the start of the Paralympic Games, UKinbound chief executive Mary Rance said the Government should be tackling the issue of slow visa applications and making a firm decision over airport capacity now if it wanted to succeed in its aim of attracting 40 million visitors to the UK by 2020.
“Now is not the time to pat each other on the back and say job well done,” she said. “Along with the many successes and highlights, there have been some major disappointments including a significant reduction in the number of visitors to London and the UK compared to summer 2011.
“Complacency is not an option. London is the gateway to the rest of the UK so the issues of the punitive tax on international tourism - APD - as well as the lack of a risk based approach to the processing of visas and the real aversion to making a decision on expanding airport capacity in London have not mysteriously disappeared. They need be dealt with now, and with a real sense of urgency.”
Rance’s comments coincided with the release of the results of a survey of the association’s 250 members’ views on the impact of the Olympics on their business.
Anecdotally, many businesses reported a drop, rather than a rise in trade during the London 2012 Olympics with some restaurants in London’s West End seeing trade fall by as much as 70 per cent.
The survey supported the claims, revealing that 66 per cent of members, who include tour operators, hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions, had experienced ‘significantly’ lower bookings or visitor numbers between 23 July and 12 August than they had during the same period on the previous year.
In response to many hospitality businesses in the capital suffering a drop in trade during the Olympics and regarding the Olympic legacy, London and Partners, the promotional agency for London, said in a statement it had always anticipated that the 'business as unusual' status would be short-lived.
“We are now working with them [leisure and hospitality businesses] to promote the legacy of the Games and to turn the millions of viewers into visitors, who can come to the capital and experience the new attractions, new restaurants and exciting places they have seen on their screens," it said.
“We will continue to work with the leisure industry to ensure the long-term anticipated tourism gain motivated by the Games, which is expected at 1.1million additional visitors worth £650m to London over the next five years.”