An official’s view of UK tourism numbers for 2012

From the London Independent… (bolding is travelmagpie’s)

Tourism chief: 2012 visitor boom unlikely

Any increase in the number of tourists visiting the UK during this Olympic year would be “against all the odds”, the chairman of VisitBritain has warned.

Speaking on the fringes of the World Travel & Tourism Council conference in Tokyo, Christopher Rodrigues warned that any country that holds a major global event sees a decline in visitors and tourism spending that same year. Mr Rodrigues’s words carry weight, as his agency is the public body tasked with marketing the UK across the globe.

“A flat year of year-on-year growth would be a good outcome,” he said. “A flat year would mean that we’ve done well against all the odds, all the history.”

Mr Rodrigues said that he believes there will be spare hotel rooms in the capital during the Games, despite the thousands of people who will descend on London to watch the two-week sporting jamboree. That increase will be offset by a decline in business travel, as major corporations will choose to hold their meetings and conferences in other parts of the world.

Mark Leftly

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5 Responses to An official’s view of UK tourism numbers for 2012

  1. lanceleuven says:

    Sounds counter intuitive until you read the very last sentence. It would be interesting to know the effect over the following years though, as I would imagine that successful events boost the global image of the locations.

    • suzykewct says:

      I don’t keep track of the economics on these blockbuster events after the fact, but unless the stadiums (stadia?) and housing are integrated into the ongoing economy, they can become long-term money pits. Information on the Wikipedia entry about the 1964 World’s Fair in New York states that the event only returned 19 cents on the dollar to investors (bonds were floated to help pay costs). A couple of buildings from that Fair remain in place but are just rusting away. Most of the site is now a city park with the US Tennis Center as its centerpiece. The US Open is held here between mid August and early September, but its facilities were all purpose-built. The US Open tournament itself pays its way, but it gets used every year, not just once. The Unisphere is surrounded by athletic fields and parkland, some of which collects fees for use but the bulk of maintenance costs are picked up by New York City taxpayers because it’s part of NYC Parks and Rec.
      The site of the 1967 Expo in Montreal, Canada kept several of its sites open for years afterwards but revenues only covered about 50% of costs.
      The case can be made, of course, that financial mismanagement, misplaced optimism or/and flat-out corruption explain some of these losses.
      That is probably an element of any big-ticket venture, anywhere in the world. I’d prefer to see permanent locations for Olympic events that are spread around the world and used over and over. Countries could be named as ‘hosts’ at these permanent sites without bankrupting their own treasuries to show off what is, increasingly, a competition among professional athletes, rather than amateurs. Yes, I realize that line is blurring all the time, but, even as much as I enjoy watching, say, Rafa Nadal or Novak Djokovic beat the stuffing out of some hapless opponent, I don’t believe they should be competing for an Olympic medal. Food for thought, eh?

      • lanceleuven says:

        Very interesting points you make there. I think when you take into account the cost of the infrastructure then it’s certainly difficult to imagine these events recouping the original investment. The London Olympics committee like to use the work ‘legacy’ a lot. But I think most (I imagine including many of them) see that as little more than an inconsequential sound bite.

        As for your comments about amateurs it immediately makes me think of Eddie ‘The Eagle’. Not sure if the story made it to your side of the pond or not but he was a British amateur ski jumper who entered the 1988 Winter Olympics and won the hearts of many. But some felt he undermined the integrity of the sport and the rules were subsequently tightened to stop such individuals entering events again.

        • suzykewct says:

          I had to Google Eddie the Eagle; I hadn’t heard about him – don’t follow winter sports much. I think I’d have been pulling for him at the time.
          The word that made me chuckle in the Wikipedia writeup referred to the competition rule change you mentioned. Integrity? In modern professional sport? Rather a hard-to-pin-down virtue these days, though winning is the point of competition. I am wistful of the days when a tied result could stand, though.

          • lanceleuven says:

            Well I’m glad that I enlightened you. Eddie the Eagle was massive at the time. And I can’t state that enough. He was a phenomenon. Us Brits do have quite a fondness for the underdog and he was the epitome of one. And his repeated failure only added to his endearing nature.

            But I totally agree with your point about integrity. It’s sad how true that is.

            I did actually make the words ‘Eddie the Eagle’ a link in my comment but I don’t know how to make it a different colour so it wasn’t very obvious!

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