Post Olympics Air Bookings Fall in UK

Post 2012 Olympic Games, air bookings in UK fell during August 2012 from 2011 levels.

Guild of Travel Management Companies, a UK-based professional association of travel companies, reported a 4.7% fall in overall air bookings in August 2012, through its BSP system of selling airfares, compared to the levels in August 2011. Bookings in August 2012 generated around GBP227 million.

Calling the fall in airline bookings the ‘Olympic Effect’, the association has recorded a decrease in the total number of transactions by 2.4% to 499,600 in August 2012, with average transaction value down by 2.4% to GBP455.06, compared to the same month of the preceding year.

GTMC chairman, Ajaya Sodha, said, ‘The drop in air sales by GTMC members was probably due to the Olympics’ effect combined with the traditional holiday season.

August is always traditionally slow and now UK PLC is back at work full on we await the September figures to get a truer picture.’

Earlier, for the second quarter of 2012, the association reported that air, rail, car hire and ancillary services registered a growth, on comparison with the same quarter last year; while hotels have only registered a stationary level from that in the same period last year.

Air travel is up by 2% in the second quarter of 2012, compared to the same quarter of 2011.

John Williams, the general manager at GTMC, commented on the 2012 second quarter results, ‘The static figure for hotel transactions may reflect anomalies due to the Olympics. It will be interesting to see what happens in the third quarter.’


New Best of Britain Tour from CIE Tours

With Britain gearing up to receive a massive tourist influx for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games to be held in July, and Her Majesty The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in June, several travel companies are offering a range of Best of Britain tours.

CIE Tours International, a US-based guided tour company, is offering escorted tours of Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales for travellers visiting the country for the upcoming events.

Eight or nine-day Best of Britain itineraries include travel by deluxe motor coach, overnight stays in first class hotels, and guided tours of local attractions. All vacations are inclusive of airport transfers, transportation, taxes and porter fees, admission fees, as well as all meals, special attractions and evening entertainment.

The Best of Britain itinerary will feature Stonehenge and Bath, Oxford, a Scottish cabaret dinner show, a banquet at Cardiff Castle, walking tours of Oxford and York, and visits to Windsor and Alnwick Castles, Tintern Abbey, and the Roman Baths. The package prices commence at $1,648 per person, and information regarding all tours is available on the company’s own website.

CIE Tours International president, Brian W Stack, said, ‘The reasons to visit Britain are far too numerous to count. However, it is clear our itineraries, especially our new Best of Britain tour, have never been more timely or exciting.’

2012 Olympic Games to Change Hotel Scene in London

The London Olympics Games has triggered an unforeseen glut of new hotel openings, and a question hangs over how this might impact on the city’s hospitality scene.

The British Hospitality Association (BHA), a UK-based association of hospitality companies, has reported the opening of 61 new properties in 2012 in the Greater London area, compared to the opening of 28 properties with 6,800 rooms in 2011. Some of the properties opened in 2011 were re-openings, including the re-branding of existing hotels by Mercure and Doubletree by Hilton, while newly constructed hotels include 1,054 rooms from Premier Inn, and 919 rooms from the Travelodge Group.

The 2012 Olympics is also expected to improve the economy of eastern London areas, including Stratford, where most of the venues are located.

The new hotels scheduled to open in London vary from luxury brands like the Bulgari Knightsbridge, to new names like the ME London, along with 21 Travelodge properties, and a total of 12 hotels from the Premier Inn and Holiday Inn brands.

While hotel managers believe that there will be excess capacity immediately after the closing of the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games, the general consensus is that prices may not fall much, as London will still remain an attractive travel destination, and hotel rooms will continue to remain in demand.

Robert Flinter, general manager of Apex City of London Hotel, said in an interview, ‘The feeling is that next year London won’t suffer the same post-Olympic slump that other cities did because it is so accessible.’

Stuart Johnson, manager of Mayfair’s Brown’s Hotel, also supported the theory, and said in an interview, ‘Clients want value for money, but they also want the quality and the service in line with the business they are doing.’

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.”