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Tourism slumps in West End, as sports lovers go East

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Casa Italia While sport lovers continued to place high demand on Olympic venues and Team GB gold medal fever flourishes, tour operators have estimated that the number of foreign visitors in London during the Olympics could actually be only half the average figure for the time of year in 2011.

Tom Jenkins, the Executive Director of the European Tour Operators Association (ETOA), claimed 300,000 foreign visitors is the norm for this time of year and estimated only 150,000 have shown up this month.

“The Olympic Games deter people,” Jenkins said.

Many tourism professionals, including restaurateurs, cab drivers and hoteliers have described London’s West End as a ‘ghost town’.

The ETOA figures, Jenkins claimed, are supported UK inbound and the Office for National Statistics which has noted, “most of the Olympic ticket holders are not going to Central London”.

Anecdotal evidence also points to West End hoteliers overestimating demand. Even vacant rooms were being advertised in hotels right next to venues such as Excel, with prices not significantly higher than rack rate.

Agency JacTravel was reported as claiming rates of £300-£400 quoted by central London four-star hotels two months ago for the Olympic period but had now dropped to between £109 and £150.

One West End theatre group, Nimax Theatres, said ticket sales were down up to 30 per cent, while visitor figures for the Tower of London were reportedly less than half for the same period in 2011.

The Licensed Taxi Drivers Association said yesterday (1 August) Londoners were leaving the city and haven’t been replaced by tourists.

Prior to the Olympics starting The Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in London said it was advised by tourism board London & Partners that June and July were likely to be not as busy for events as usual, with Olympic cities generally seeing around a 20 per cent drop in business.

The QEIICC then went ahead and agreed on letting the Italian Olympic Committee take over its centre from July for its Olympic House ‘Casa Italia’. Commercial Director at the QEIICC, Sue Etherington, said allowing the Italians in that early had been a sticking point in the negotiations until they spoke with London & Partners and recognised that allowing the Italians to take the centre in July would in fact secure revenue that they may not have been otherwise attained.
 
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