It amazes me that cities are still so keen to stage events such as the Olympics. Far from increasing the number of visitors it actually drives them away. Hotels put up their prices and most people assume that flights will be either unavailable or very expensive, so they go somewhere else. Locally we had this nonsense for the handover – hotels started out offering rooms at ridiculous prices, then cut prices and finally found out that they couldn’t fill their rooms whatever they did.
Here’s a warning about the likely effect on London of the Olympics in 2012.
The trade body representing tour operators has warned that expectations of a boost in tourism from the London Olympics may not be met, after unveiling research that suggested previous games had a "toxic" effect on visitor numbers. The European Tour Operators Association, which held a seminar on the subject today, released research that showed previous hosts had invariably overestimated the number of foreign visitors and the duration of their stay.
The Sydney games in 2000 anticipated 132,000 visitors and received 97,000 for the games period, while Athens hoped for 105,000 per night in 2004 and received fewer than 14,000. In 2008, Beijing anticipated more than 400,000 foreign guests and received 235,000 for the whole month of August.
The average number of hotel beds occupied in Beijing during the Olympics was 39% down on the previous year, the ETOA report showed. It said that while the Beijing Games may have been a "triumph of planning and showmanship", for the tourism industry they were a "toxic event that crushed normal demand, both business and leisure". The report said that while tourism chiefs and organisers had recognised that the Olympics would create some displacement, with visitors arriving for the games replacing those put off by the fact it was taking place, they still tended to talk in terms of a large overall boost.
Will people ever learn?