UK rode tourist wave in 2012

The UK’s national tourism agency has released figures indicating that inbound tourism experienced a boom during 2012.

The tourism increase that the UK has benefited from in recent years continued into last year, as the nation’s popularity with foreign tourists showed no sign of abating. The Olympic affect was much in evidence, with London being the main beneficiary of its staging of the games. 15.5 million visitors passed through the city in a year when it also staged the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. This accounted for 50 percent of all visits to the UK, confirming London’s draw as a major global attraction.

Scotland also proved popular with overseas visitors, with Edinburgh coming second only to London for visits with a total of 1.3 million. Glasgow’s visitor figure grew by nearly 10 percent on the previous year to register a total of 521,000 visits.

Of the other English cities, Manchester led the way by attracting 932,000 visitors, Birmingham was not far behind with its total of 713,000, and Liverpool also saw an increase to 550,000. Meanwhile, Wales also enjoyed the knock-on effect of a boom year, with Cardiff predictably its best performer as it received 41,000 more visits than it did in 2010, for a total of 301,000.

Hugh Robertson, minister for tourism, commented, ‘We showcased the very best of Britain last year encouraging overseas visitors to come and see for themselves what our great country has to offer. I am encouraged that destinations across Britain have seen visitor numbers rise and we will do all we can to keep up that momentum.

‘Tourism spend is up and I am confident that the industry can continue to grow and increase its contribution to the economy further.’

VisitEngland Introduces Online Accessibility Guide for 2012 Paralympics

VisitEngland, the official travel promotional agency for England, has released new guidance for online destination sites aimed at improving information for travellers with reduced mobility and other access needs, to coincide with the commencement of the 2012 London Paralympic Games.

As well as helping websites offer a warm welcome to the participants in, and visitors to, the Paralympic Games, the new ‘Winning More Visitors’ resource is designed to assist websites provide access information for visitors to the country that have access needs.

Previously, a survey conducted by the agency reported that around 83 percent of people with access needs had searched for access information online to plan a trip to their favoured destinations, and around 3 percent of them finally managed to locate the information they required.

The research also reported that around 74 percent of people with access needs are likely to prefer visiting a destination that offers the best assistance.

Ross Calladine, the agency’s skills, welcome and accessibility manager, said, ‘Visitors who have a health condition or impairment – and their travelling companions – spend over GBP2bn each year in England, and our research shows that many of those visitors will choose where to spend that money based on the access information available on destination websites. We have produced Winning More Visitors to help destinations improve their welcome and attract even more of these loyal and valuable visitors.’

The online resource provides guidance on travel-planning tools, such as providing details of available transportation, parking space with access options, information on geography from an accessibility point of view, a list of accessible tourism venues including accommodation and attractions, and other relevant information.

New Boutique Hotels to Open in London

Two new hotels will be ready to welcome visitors to London this summer.

A new boutique residence, The Dorset Square Hotel, has already opened in the Marylebone area of London, UK.

The hotel has opened under the banner of Design Hotels group, and is owned by the husband and wife duo, Kit and Tim Kemp. It has 38 rooms, which range from a single room to the special Dorset Square Room, overlooking the city and the property’s beautiful gardens.

The hotel’s location, Marylebone, is a prosperous city area in central London, with residential areas, stylish shops, cafes and restaurants, as well as art galleries, all within close proximity. The property houses The Potting Shed bar & restaurant, for the dining pleasure of its guests.

The new Ampersand Hotel is also opening after the 2012 London Olympics games, and is located in the South Kensington area of London. The hotel is offering 111 luxury rooms and suites, as well as dining venues including the Apero restaurant, and The Drawing Rooms, an all-day coffee lounge.  It is scheduled to open on 29th August, 2012.

The hotel amenities include 24-hour room service, complimentary Wi-Fi, a media hub, mini bars in rooms, and complimentary tea and coffee making facilities. The hotel also houses a fitness centre on the ground floor of the property. Meeting spaces include The Library, and the Games Room.

The hotel is nestled in a neighbourhood that is within easy access of London’s top attractions for visitors, including the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Science Museum, and the Natural History Museum.

Will 2012 Olympic Games Boost London Economy

With the London Olympic Games barely 100 days away, London’s economy is expected to get a major boost from the added tourism interest in the city and surrounding areas, due to the influx of international visitors.

While the summer 2000 Olympic Games held in Sydney failed to ignite the city’s economy, the 2008 Beijing Olympics were quite successful in boosting the Chinese economy.

The UK government’s estimated investment in the London Games is £10 billion, mainly for the construction of venues, and the completion of important infrastructure projects and hotels and new retail outlets in East London. The investment is said to have revived the economy of East London, with its effects expected to last far beyond the completion of the Games.

British Consul-General, Danny Lopez, said, ‘This is not about the 28 days of the games, it’s about what it means for the future of the country, for the future of our generations and, economically, it’s a transformation of East London. This is an area that didn’t have that before, didn’t have the transport infrastructure, didn’t have the know-how.’

The government expects to generate around £2 billion in tourism revenues from the games, as well as gaining from the development of the area with 11,000 new homes and around 8,000 new employment opportunities.

London is expecting around 800,000 extra bus passengers and will be running 4,000 train services during the games. While around 1.5 million travellers visit the UK in August in a typical year, this year, with the Games opening on July 27, 2012, the number of visitors to the city is expected to rise to 2.5 million.

Travel and tourism to boost UK economy in 2012

The UK will be increasingly reliant on travel and tourism in 2012 as jobs and economic growth in the sector outstrip the wider economy.

According to a report released today by the World Travel&Tourism Council (WTTC), the industry will grow by 1.3 percent in 2012 – over double the rate of growth in the wider economy, predicted to be 0.6 percent by the International Monetary Fund.

This rate of growth means that the travel and tourism industry is expected to directly contribute £35.6 billion and almost 950,000 jobs to the British economy.

When the wider economic impacts of the industry are taken into account, travel and tourism is forecast to contribute over £100 billion to the UK economy and generate 2.3 million jobs – or 1 in 13 of all jobs in the UK.

During 2012, some 30 million people will visit the UK, as the country maintains its position as one of the top 10 most-visited nations.

In 2011, the industry grew by 4.1 percent in the UK – or 5 times the rate of the economy as a whole; according to the Office of National Statistics, the UK economy grew by 0.7 percent in 2011.

David Scowsill, President and CEO of WTTC, said: “At a time of significant economic hardship, the travel and tourism industry is helping to beat the recession by generating jobs and growth at a faster rate than the wider UK economy. 2012 is likely to be bolstered by the cheap pound, the continued trend for domestic holidays, and the extra Bank Holiday weekend for the Golden Jubilee. The London Olympics are unlikely to have any significant effect.”

Figures for the UK for 2012 show a marked difference to the European Union as a whole. A tightening of consumer spending, uncertainty around the future of the Eurozone, and peripheral economies of Greece, Spain, Italy, and Portugal, and the impact of austerity measures kicking-in will result in a contraction of the industry of 0.3 percent.

The WTTC’s annual Economic Impact Report also shows that the global travel and tourism industry is set for a milestone year as the industry’s direct contribution to the global economy is expected to pass $2 trillion in GDP and 100 million jobs.

The report forecasts that the global travel and tourism industry will grow by 2.8 percent in 2012, marginally faster than the global rate of economic growth, predicted to be 2.5 percent.

This rate of growth means that the travel and tourism industry is expected to directly contribute $2 trillion to the global economy and sustain some 100.3 million jobs.

When the wider economic impacts of the industry are taken into account, travel and tourism is forecast to contribute some $6.5 trillion to the global economy and generate 260 million jobs – or 1 in 12 of all jobs on the planet.

Olympic Games unlikely to boost UK tourism

In 2012 we will welcome two of the biggest UK events in decades, however the country is unlikely to see a boost in the number of tourists visiting the UK next year.


In June celebrations will commence for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and the Olympic Games will take place in July and August, however according to VisitBritain neither of these big events will product a significant boom in tourism from overseas.


The UK tourist authority has predicted that 30.7million travellers will head to Britain next year – around the same amount of tourists recorded from the past 12 months.


Authorities have blamed the Olympics for the expected tourism figures, stating that would-be tourists see the event as much a turn-off as others see it as a reason to travel.


Christopher Rodrigues, chairman of VisitBritain said: “History tells you (the Olympic Games) have displacement effect in the year of the event. Lots of people say: ‘I’ll give it a miss’”.


The challenge for us is to counter the displacement effect with an active marketing programme to encourage people to consider Britain in 2012”.


A £100million marketing fund to boost tourism has been announced by the Government, even though the economic benefit of next year’s 30.7million tourists is expected to be only £17.6million.


Sandie Dawe, chief executive of VisitBritain said: “While these (visitor) figures are in line with expected numbers in 2011, maintaining current visitor levels would be a good outcome in a year that is proving difficult to predict due to the current global economic climate and the impact this may have in many of our key markets”.


She added: “Visit Britain is working hard to ensure that the Games and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations will generate positive PR for Britain, taking advantage of the global interest and creating a lasting tourism legacy for the future”.


Article by Charlotte Greenhalgh

London could suffer 95 per cent tourism slump during Olympic’s

In a survey conducted among its members, the European Tour Operators Association (ETOA) has discovered that a major slump in leisure tourism bookings is underway.

At the end of October 2011, ETOA canvassed 38 operators who move more than two million people annually to London. They revealed that they were expecting a significant downturn throughout 2012.

This looks like it will be extremely severe in July and August, where operators are currently seeing a 60percent shortfall in bookings, becoming acute during the period of the Olympic Games where bookings are running at 95 percent below where they would normally be. Bookings for the rest of the year are running at 20percent below this time last year.

“This is still very early in the booking cycle,” said Tom Jenkins, Executive Director of ETOA, “And only reflects what our normal leisure customers are doing. We always see a decline in demand for a destination during an Olympic year.

Clients tend to think that a city has priorities other than being a place to visit for a normal holiday, so some of this was to be expected. But this tendency is becoming absolute as the hotel rates climb in July and August. During the Olympic period itself, there is currently almost no demand from regular tourists. For foreign visitors there is near total displacement by the Games.”

“One of the main reasons for the drop is that the hotels believe that they are going to be full. 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, ”Insight has won a Queens Award for Export, but 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.”

These figures represent only current trends in leisure tourism. These may change. They do not account for what corporate business may come, or for those people who are coming for the Olympics. But bookings for London will have to strengthen enormously to make up for this shortfall: London has 125,000 hotel rooms to fill. Foreign Olympic visitors averaged no more than 25,000 people per night in Athens. And July and August are normally the two busiest months for inbound tourists: they usually represent 22% of foreign visitor arrivals.

London is a gateway for the rest of the UK. If the UK as a whole suffers an equivalent decline, then £3.5billion of business will be lost to the British economy as a whole during July and August alone.

The problem for the tourism industry is that, even if London does fill with Olympic enthusiasts, they do not behave as normal tourists. Their presence is determined by their interest in an atypical event. They do not come to shop, to sightsee, or to attend the theatre.

“We anticipate a significant decline in business in July and August 2012 for London theatres and attractions,” said John Wales, Managing Director of Encore Tickets, one of London’s leading theatre ticket agencies, who sell over 2 million tickets annually, “At present I anticipate sales from tourists to be at least 40percent down on last year, so we are looking urgently at alternative customers to the traditional inbound visitor that has been displaced.”

“We know that there will be a large drop in demand next summer,” said Nick Palan, owner of Golden Tours, a major sightseeing operator in London,
“and this is having a major impact on our capital investment plans. Furthermore, such is the projected disruption on the roads; there is a major concern whether any tours in London can be operated at all during the Olympic period.”

This does not bode well for the legacy of the Games. Scaring away customers, on the assumption that they will gratefully return is an unconventional sales tactic. “The long-term trend implications are huge,” said John Boulding, “The UK has traditionally been part of a visit to ‘Europe’ for long-haul visitors. But they can then save time, avoid high visa costs, and benefit from Schiphol’s or Charles de Gaulle’s freedom from APD if they avoid the UK. The Olympics is now making them do so. The legacy of this example is not a happy picture for the UK.”

Commuters urged to travel differently during London 2012

Transport Minister Norman Baker today urged commuters and businesses in London to think differently about how they travel during the Olympic Games as he marked a year to go to what is likely to be one of the busiest days on the transport network.

Modelling by Games organisers predict that 3 August 2012 will see an extra three million trips made on top of the 12 million trips on public transport being made on an average London workday. This is due to it being the first day for track and field, and with events at larger capacity venues such as the Olympic Stadium, Horse Guards Parade and the Aquatics Centre the number of spectators are likely to peak.

In order to manage the increased number of people using the Capital’s transport network, the Government wants commuters and Londoners to travel and work differently during the Games. For example commuters who live near work, or travel short distances within central London, are being urged to cycle or walk to work. Those who live further away are being encouraged to try different routes; stagger their journey times to avoid the busiest periods; work remotely; or use video conferencing for meetings.

Norman Baker was speaking at BT where he was shown innovative new ways for businesses and individuals to work remotely from both home and the office. He said:

“The Games will be a once-in-a-generation test for both our transport system and our adaptability. As we edge ever closer to the Olympics, hand-in-hand with new investment must go new solutions.

“I am the first ever transport minister to have official responsibility for alternatives to travel and the Olympics will be a key time to really embrace these ideas. It’s time to oil the creaking bike, dig out the walking boots, work out how to use the video conferencing equipment, and fire up the laptop gathering dust at the back of the cupboard.

“And of course Government has to play its part – at DfT we’ll be cutting our travel footprint by half during the Games, with similar initiatives across Whitehall. But all businesses need to play their part too – there’s plenty of help and advice out there so no excuse why we can’t reduce the amount we travel during the 17 days of the Games.”

In the run up to the Olympics around £6.5bn has been invested in upgrading and extending transport links including the first ever domestic high speed train in Britain, new stations, more tube trains and line extensions. And, as well as the big ticket items, investment has been put into everyday improvements such as innovative customer travel information systems and more user-friendly walking, cycling and river routes.

Demand for accommodation soars as Londoners rent their way to gold during Olympics

Figures released today by, UK arm of the market leader of the online holiday rentals industry, reveal that London homeowners are benefiting from an unprecedented demand for holiday rentals during the London Games. Demand for rental properties in London for the Olympic summer of 2012 has increased by 131 times as compared to the previous year.

It is expected that home owners looking to cash in on the leap of interest could generate an average of £4,500 by renting their home during the 16 day-long event; an average of £2,000 per week. Londoners thinking about doing this can now find out how much a property similar to theirs could make using’s newly launched interactive Olympic Rental Map. The Map calculates the average income you could expect to make from your home; taking into account the rental rate increase the Olympics is expected to spark as well as proximity to sporting venues and transport hubs.

The Olympics has the potential to earn millions in rental income for homeowners in the Capital. There are currently over 700 London properties available for rent on and the company is expecting weekly rental rates for those properties to increase by almost 150% on average, echoing a trend for price spikes seen during the 2010 World Cup in Johannesburg.

Tim Boughton, UK General Manager, said: “We have observed a steady increase in tourists looking for holiday rentals, with particularly high peaks in demand around major global sporting events. These latest figures confirm that London will be no exception. Enquiries for London properties have skyrocketed, particularly those properties in close proximity to the key Olympics sites and with good transport links to London’s top attractions. This, combined with the expected repetition of the 150% increase in rental prices seen at the 2010 World Cup, means savvy Londoners will truly be going for gold next summer.”