30 Mar 2012

'Tricky' year for tourism predicted by Visit Britain chief

A "tricky" year has been predicted for British tourism in 2012 despite the London Olympics by the head of the country's tourism authority.

Speaking at an Institute of Travel and Tourism dinner last night, Sandie Dawe, Visit Britain chief executive, conceded there was a "propaganda war" going on to persuade potential visitors that Britain was open for business outside of the Olympics.

"The tourism industry has been aware of the issue right from the start that the year you host the Olympics your tourism is likely to go down,” she said.

"In terms of what we are doing about it we have for the past few years been pumping out information to tour operators and the media about the facts - London is not closed.

“You are up against the perception in Olympics year that people will give it a miss and they will come next year. It's like a propaganda war.

"It's likely to be a tricky year. Theatres and attractions are quite worried and some have built in to their projections that they will be up to 40% down."

Asked about inflated hotel prices, fuelled partly by unrealistic allocations taken by Olympic committees to sell in their local markets, adding to the impression that Britain was too expensive Dawe said:

"Locog [the Games organising committee] have their allocation and hotels know exactly where they stand and are pricing how they see fit."

Dawe said high level discussions have been had with hoteliers, Visit Britain and the British Hospitality Association and they have been unable to persuade them to change their pricing.