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Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Olympic Optimism and Reality

Ask any London concierge and you will get the truth. More than a year ago the common conversation at their meetings was to compare their observation of reality with the official optimism that was being promoted by the government. Actual forward bookings of hotel rooms for the summer of 2012 were alarmingly few. Using their contacts in the travel business, they found out that the number of visitors to any Olympic city whose trips were directly ascribable to their sporting enthusiasm was far fewer than the British government imagined. Meanwhile 'normal' tourism dried up as massive official block-booking of rooms at inflated prices pushed London beyond the price range of tourists who were anyhow worried at the possibility of terrorist attacks during the games and the difficulties that the might face on overly stressed transport systems.

By the autumn of 2011 it was clear that major companies which annually brought large numbers of tourists to London as the base for a European experience had transferred their bases to Paris: and the wise old cross-keys stated their expectation that if that worked out, at least some of those tours would be lost to London for an indefinite future. The Olympic effect would be negative and longlasting. This confident prediction was made during 2011 in defiance of a dogmatic official line that is still being repeated as retailers in central London have begun to deplore the absence of tourist-shoppers. Currently available data suggest that 100,000 Olympic visitors have squeezed out a normal end-July crop of 300,000. Official Economists  [of course!] continue to predict that the games will provide a much-needed boost to economic growth. This will prove to be on a par with their normal degree of accuracy; and they will again shrug off the evidence that the facts are at odds with what they should be. Another small nail in the coffin of the sad subject.

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