Rhetoric about London Olympics business begins

VisitScotland is boosting its marketing efforts to take advantage of what is expected to be a wave of 2012 summer travelers avoiding London due to the congestion and perceived higher prices associated with the London Olympics.

On Monday, the European Tour Operators Association (ETOA) put out a release suggesting a slump for the UK capital next summer. A survey of some of its members, who are responsible for two million tourists a year, suggests they could experience a 90% downturn in bookings during the London Olympic Games.

“London appears to have priced itself out of the market in July and August,” said John Boulding, president of Insight Vacations, a leading luxury tour operator. ”We have had no choice but to remove London from our best-selling European ‘Panorama’ tours in July and August. Each one will start and finish on the Continent. They are selling well, but they are selling without the UK.”

Of course, London should be filled with travelers who actually want to participate in the Olympic experience, while more traditional sightseers may stay away due to crowds and perceived elevated costs.

However, ETOA Executive Director Tom Jenkins said, “If UK businesses are basing their plans on data in some prominent visitor forecasts, London will suffer financially as has been experienced by previous host cities.”

At the same time, Willie Macleod from the Scottish Tourism Forum, might have more realistically stated, “Tour operators are unlikely to be able to obtain capacity at normally competitive rates from suppliers in London.”

London has 125,000 hotel rooms to fill. Foreign Olympic visitors averaged no more than 25,000 people per night in Athens.

VisitScotland Chief Executive Malcolm Roughead said: “The south of England represents a healthy proportion of Scotland’s visitors, so we are already extremely active in pursuing this market as part of our Surprise Yourself campaign, which has already captured nearly £90m extra for the Scottish economy since March. … “We will be looking to tactically target those who are looking to get away through a series of promotions with existing partners.”