“The main problem is domestic visitors aren’t coming,” said Tom Jenkins, executive director of the European Tour Operators Association, in an interview with the Associated Press. “We usually expect around 800,000 U.K. visitors on day trips to London around this time — that’s simply not happening.”
Miles Quest, of the British Hospitality Association (BHA), says there’s “no real downturn in hotel business — most central London hotels are between 80 to 90 per cent full at the moment.” He says there’s considerable concern about levels of occupancy during the last two weeks of August and during the Paralympics. Quest believes people coming to the Games aren’t your normal tourists, adding, “they don’t appear to be eating or shopping.” BHA research showed London restaurants experienced a dip in sales by 40 per cent, on average, and in some cases by more than 60 per cent during the week, beginning July 23 — a decline that’s continued into this week. Quest says the poor performance is “mainly a result of measures taken to discourage people coming into London.”
In fact, the BHA says the Games have hurt hotel booking patterns. “The Games have totally disrupted normal booking patterns, and there’s doubt whether hotel occupancy during August this year will match that of a normal August.” The association cites very little corporate demand during the Olympics and says business from leisure travellers to London, is also very weak.
In an effort to improve sales, BHA met with the Mayor of London to discuss encouraging visitors and diners to visit the city. It was agreed some Olympic-only roads will be opened for normal traffic, while ‘avoid city-centre’ messages transmitted by local transportation companies will be reduced. The BHA is also asking to have the congestion charge removed for the remainder of the Games.
The Games run until Aug. 12.