Olympics partly to blame for Virgin Atlantic’s deepening losses

Virgin Atlantic, a UK-based airline, has partly blamed the 2012 London Olympic Games for its latest reported losses.

Sir Richard Branson’s company has reported a loss of £93 million for the last financial year, adding to the £80 million deficit that it reported for the previous year. The airline’s new chief executive, Craig Kreeger, said that a dent in business travel that was partly due to the effect of the Olympic games had impacted on the figures, although he was optimistic for the future, forecasting a return to profitability for the company within two years.

Kreeger said, ‘Last year saw a double dip recession, a continued weak macro economy, and an Olympic Games which, although a fantastic event, severely dented demand for business travel. Despite these challenging circumstances, the enduring strength of the Virgin Atlantic brand has not wavered – we have increased our revenues, our load factors, and carried many more passengers than the previous year.

I am confident we have concrete plans in place to take Virgin Atlantic forward and return the business to profitability within a two-year time frame. The commitment of our staff and loyal customer base is not to be overlooked and as a brand with high advocacy we will continue to innovate and inspire in true Virgin spirit.’

The group’s revenue did see an increase of 5 percent, to £2.87 billion, and it registered a 3.5 percent increase in passenger numbers to 5.5 million.

Virgin Atlantic is implementing a number of measures to reverse its fortunes, including the recent launch of new domestic airline, Little Red, and cuts to its administrative operations.

Holiday Inn Announces Increased Occupancy for Olympics 2012 Period

UK-based InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) has announced a boost in the sales of its Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express brands in the UK due, to the 2012 Olympic games.

IHG has reported that its brand images for Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express have increased with business travellers, owing to its role as the official hospitality partner for the games. As part of its Olympic programme, Holiday Inn is also the brand operating the athletes’ village, which is located close to the main stadium in Stratford, London.

The occupancy rates for the brands’ 51 properties in and around London have been at around 90 percent for the games period to date.

The company chief executive, Richard Solomons, said, ‘It’s a great opportunity to showcase both brands on a global scale and the campaigns in the run-up to the Games have driven great results.

In the UK, we have seen an 11 percent increase in consideration for the brand among business travellers.

Those guests who have seen our campaign are also 50 percent more likely to stay with us again than they were before.

We would expect 80 percent occupancy during August so the Olympics has clearly had a beneficial effect. We have new Holiday Inn and Staybridge hotels right by the Olympic park.

We have delivered good results in the first half with revpar growth from all regions through gains in both occupancy and rate.

Our brands continue to perform well and we have achieved solid underlying margin growth, resulting in increased profits and strong cash flows.’

London Hotels Report Increased Occupancy for Opening Weekend of 2012 Olympics

London hotels have reported 84 percent occupancy during the first weekend of the 2012 Olympic games.

STR Global, a company that provides research findings for the hotel industry, has reported that from July 27 to 29, 2012, hotels across London registered 84.4 percent occupancy, for an average £224.72 per room. The games commenced in London on July 27, 2012.

Elizabeth Randall, the managing director of STR Global, said, ‘Hotel performance is strong, London hotels are busy. Some but not all are full; there is room in the inn but overall hotels are in a good position.

During a normal period, hoteliers are able to anticipate demand based on known trends and can therefore plan for short-notice demand to supplement cancellations and no-shows. When an international event comes to town, these variables are more difficult to control or predict.’

Hotels in the Docklands/Greenwich area of London have registered the highest occupancy rate for the Olympic period, at 94.9 percent, followed by those in the West End with 89.0 percent occupancy. Other areas in London which reported occupancies of more than 80 percent included Earls Court/ Kensington/ Chelsea; Knightsbridge/ Pimlico/ Victoria; London North/ Camden; London South; London West End; Paddington/ Bayswater; and The City/ Shoreditch areas.

Average daily rates reached the highest in the Knightsbridge, Pimlico and Victoria areas, at £399.20 per room, followed by hotels in the West End, with £329.27 per room.

The occupancy rates include physically occupied rooms at hotels, but do not include any paid rooms that are left unoccupied.

Foreign Travellers Spend Millions on Visa During London Olympics

The 2012 Olympic games have added around $1.4 billion to the UK tourism industry, according to a report by Visa, a US-based credit card company.

International travellers have spent an additional $716.7 million using their Visa accounts while staying in the UK for the second week of the games, from July 30 to August 5.

Foreign tourists have spent the most on services, which accounted for around $139.1 million, including items such as shoe and jewellery repairs, and spas. Entertainment accounted for around $106.6 million, including theatre tickets and other attractions, while airlines have taken around $82.4 million.

Kevin Burke, the chief marketing officer of core products, for Visa, said, ‘The Olympics are a showcase for athletics and innovation, and the same goes for tourism. It is easier than ever for international travellers safely to pay for goods and services with payment cards, contactless smart cards or mobile technology.

Visa’s spend data shows that more countries are able to take advantage of these payment innovations. Tourism is a vital component of economic growth for any nation, and it is exciting that Visa payment technology is making it possible for countries and regions around the world to have a bigger impact on the global economy.’

When viewed on a country-by-country basis, the top ten countries that featured in the report for visitor spending were the US, Japan, France, Italy, Australia, the Republic of Ireland, Spain, Germany, Canada, and Sweden.

The 2012 Olympic games have welcomed athletes from around 205 countries, to participate in 26 different sports, while around 11 million international visitors have arrived in the UK.

London 2012 Olympics Gather Momentum

The London Olympic Games Organising Committee (LOCOG), the agency that is responsible for all Olympic preparations in London, has reported that around five million spectators have witnessed the event to date, at the various venues across the UK.

With more than 60 percent of the event completed so far, the Olympic Park alone has seen around one million visitors since the Games began on July 27, 2012.

Visitors to the events have seen some amazing sporting action, including the setting of 85 new Olympic records and 32 new world records.

Referring to the host nation’s terrific performance in winning 6 gold medals in one day on Saturday August 4, LOCOG chairperson, Lord Sebastian Coe, said, ‘We have done everything we possibly could to create the environment for the athletes to perform.

Everything we have done is aimed at giving the athletes the best shot at that crucial moment in their lives.

For me it probably was the greatest day of sport I have ever witnessed.’

Visiting sports fans have waived flags, donned face paint and cheered their favourites home, creating a tremendous atmosphere for the world’s largest sporting event. Meanwhile, around 300,000 visitors have been watching the sports action from city centre locations across the UK where giant screens have been installed.

The spectacle continued for British sports fans on Sunday, with Andy Murray taking gold in the men’s singles tennis tournament.

LOCOG chief executive officer, Paul Deighton, said¸ ‘My overwhelming feeling is one of pride. I am very proud of the show the UK is putting on, of the tremendous performance of our athletes and I’m very proud of my team which has given its heart and soul to these Games over the last seven years.’

Millennium and Copthorne Hotels Observe Slowdown in London before 2012 Olympics

Millennium and Copthorne Hotels, a UK based hotel company, has reported a low RevPar (revenue per available room) at its London properties during the days before the 2012 Olympics, according to its half yearly statements, which were released recently.

The hotel group has reported a drop of around 12.5 percent in RevPar in the first 24 days of July 2012, which is believed to be due to London having attracted fewer visitors ahead of the Olympics.

However, in the first six months of 2012, the company has reported that RevPAR in London increased by 4.3 percent to £95.76, compared to £91.79 in the six months ended June 30, 2011. The increase has been partially offset by a decrease in occupancy of 1.0 percent to 77.8 percent in first half of 2012, compared to the first half of 2011.

While the company properties in the Mayfair area of London, the Tara and the Gloucester, have reported an increase in revenue, Baileys in Knightsbridge reported lower occupancy than in the first half of 2012.

Regional UK revenues have decreased by 0.3 percent to GBP40.78 in the first half of 2012, compared to £40.90 in the first half of 2011. The average room rate has decreased by 2.0 percent to £58.78 in the first half of 2012, compared to £59.95 in the same period last year.

Kwek Leng Beng, the company chairman, said, ‘The Group delivered a successful overall performance from its hotel operations in the first half of 2012, with additional profits from our joint venture in China and good progress on asset management projects. Whilst trading is still in line with management expectations, the hospitality industry cannot be immune to the on-going Euro crisis and global economic uncertainty.

The strengthening of our management team, together with our excellent financial position, increases our ability to manage the challenges of an uncertain economic outlook and to take advantage of the strategic opportunities which the present environment is likely to offer.’

Hotels still have rooms available throughout London Olympics

TravelClick, a company that claims to offer revenue-generating solutions for hoteliers, has reported an update on hotel occupancy for the Olympic Games, which commence in London today.

The company has reported that two days prior to the commencement of the 2012 games, hotels were reporting a committed occupancy average of 80.4 percent for the Games period. The hotels have reported that their busiest night is July 31, 2012, when the committed occupancy rises to 85.8 percent. The company is citing the men’s road cycling individual time trial final, which takes place the next day, as the reason for packed houses at most hotels on that preceding night.

However, hotel prices during the Games are currently showing an increase of 70 percent on average, compared to the same time last year. The highest rates are expected t be for August 5, 2012, when they will peak at GBP193 per night. On that day the country is expecting a record-breaking sprint from Usain Bolt in the men’s 100m final event.

Meanwhile, hotel price comparison website, Trivago, has reported that London hotel prices have actually decreased by around 17 percent since last week, as the 2012 Games commence. According to the company, there is still around 30 percent excess capacity for the duration of the Games at hotels in London, so last minute travellers are advised to shop around for a bargain deal.

The company has also reported that hotel prices will be falling by around 35 percent immediately after the Games end, to an average of GBP130 per room, per night, making this the best time to acquire accommodation for leisure and business travel to the city.


BAA Claims Readiness for 2012 London Olympics

BAA Ltd, owner and operator of six British airports including London Heathrow, has announced that the airports under company management are all ready to receive the influx of international visitors for the 2012 London Olympic Games, which commence tomorrow.

Colin Matthews, the chief executive of BAA, said, ‘We are pleased that Olympic arrivals have gone smoothly so far but there is lots more to do. London 2012 is Britain’s biggest peacetime transport challenge and we are spending more than GBP20 million to ensure Heathrow is ready for its busiest ever period, including building a temporary Games Terminal; preparing to host remote check-in at the Olympic Village; and training more than 1,000 volunteers who are giving a warm welcome to athletes on behalf of London.’

The company has recently released its results for first six months, ending June 30, 2012, and has reported revenues of GBP1.2 billion, an 8.4 percent increase on the same time last year. Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation have increased by 8.8 percent to GBP555.2 million, in the first six months of 2012, compared to those in the first six months of 2011.

Commenting on the results, Matthews said, ‘BAA is reporting a strong operational and financial performance for the first half of 2012. Higher passenger numbers and increased yields are driving revenue growth which is being invested in new facilities for passengers. Passengers tell us they are noticing the improvements with Heathrow receiving its highest ever passenger satisfaction scores in the two most recent quarterly Airport Service Quality surveys.’


World Mobi Launches Mobile City Guide Apps for London ahead of 2012 Games

With the eyes of travel industry trained on London this summer for the 2012 Olympics Games, a mobile web development company, World Mobi, is offering its mobile guide to the city.

London.Mobi city guide is offering visitors to the city all of the information required to plan their trips, including visits to popular attractions and sites, available tours, restaurants, accommodation and transportation. The mobile app is available to download for free across all mobile platforms for visitors to London.

Kelly Footit, head of development at World Group, said, ‘As the world’s attention shifts to London as it hosts its third Olympic Games, this free mobile travel guide means visitors are just a few clicks away from top things to do in the destination.

In recent weeks, London has emerged as the largest free wireless zone in Europe with an increasing number of free Wi-Fi hotspots available, which means users can download this innovative guide quickly and without hassle.’

With the city expecting an influx of around 450,000 tourists and sports fans every day, Oxford Economics estimates that 450,000 will be staying in the city and there will be 5.5 million day visitors, during the Games, so the city is likely to be bursting at the seams during the period.

Traffic around the Games venues is expected to be particularly slow, and there may be serious bottlenecks at key points in the city due to the increased traffic. The availability of various navigational tools such as route planners and city guides should prove useful to visitors.


Chiltern Railways Announces Modified Time Table to Accommodate 2012 Games Traffic

Chiltern Railways, a UK-based train company operating on the London Marylebone to Birmingham Snow Hill route, has unveiled its new timetable for the upcoming 20102 Olympic and Paralympic Games, to be held in London from July 27, 2012.

The railways is offering around 120,000 seats during the Games period, by introducing measures that include an increase in the number of carriages during off peak services, and running late night trains out of London every day. The company is also offering early morning and late night trains on Sundays for passengers travelling to and from London during the Games.

The other additional services include a modified evening peak timetable on August 1, 6 and 7, 2012, for football events to be held at Wembley Stadium, and Games events taking place in London, which are open to all.

Chad Collins, the general manager south at Chiltern Railways, said, ‘We are providing approximately 100,000 seats over the Games to make sure our passengers have as comfortable journey as possible. There will be 4,000 extra seats every day and an additional 6,000 seats solely when there are Wembley Stadium events. We are also increasing the number of carriages to off peak services and running a special Sunday service for passengers travelling to the Games.

Services are likely to be busier than usual. Where possible, passengers should consider travelling off peak and make sure that they check train times on our website and allow extra time for their journeys. We’re looking forward to welcoming passengers to our service and being part of this truly unique event.’