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Big events bad for tourism

Unsurprising news from The Guardian (Olympic bargains galore as London's theatres and hotels slash rates):

Call it the Olympic effect. From the smartest of hotels to sought-after theatre tickets to the best restaurants, the London 2012 Games are providing summer bookers with some unexpected bargains in one of the world's most expensive cities.

Hotels in London are paying the price for pushing up their room rates for the Games: bookings are down by 35% after long-haul travel operators advised international visitors to go elsewhere this summer.

Visitors can now secure great bargains as hotels and theatres slash prices to compensate for a slump in bookings caused by the Olympics. Rooms in central hotels can be obtained for as much as 30% below the usual rates and tickets for some West End hits are being offered at half price.

Many hotels inflated the price of rooms for the summer, with some setting rates at up to three times the normal level in anticipation of demand from Olympic visitors. These inflated prices have had a devastating effect on advance bookings by long-haul tour operators, which bring visitors from countries such as the United States, Australia and Japan, who have spurned London in favour of other European capitals. A survey by the European Tour Operators' Association last November showed that advance bookings for the Olympics period were down 90% compared with last year.

"When the Olympics are on, normal tourists are scared away because cities are perceived as expensive and too difficult to deal with," said Tom Jenkins, executive director of the tour operators' association. "This presents consumers with a big opportunity."

Hotel bookings in the capital are down 35% in July and 30% in August, according to the latest published figures from hotel room wholesaler JacTravel, which books half a million London bed nights a year. This fall in demand is translating into bargain prices. "Rates during the Games [27 July to 12 August] have recently been falling from very inflated levels," says JacTravel's director of online, Angela Skelly. "Rates after the Games are currently 15%-20% down on the same period last year."

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