UK tourism ‘slumped’ during Olympics

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iol news pic london olympics empty seats july 30

AP

Spectators sit amongst empty seats before Egypt's group C men's soccer match against New Zealand at the London 2012 Summer Olympics.

London - The Olympics brought less tourist money to recession-hit Britain than officials promised, a trade group said, with a majority of businesses reporting losses from last year.

A survey of more than 250 tour operators, hoteliers and visitor attractions found that tourist traffic fell all over Britain, not just London, said UKinbound, a leading trade association representing British tour operators said. The survey said 88 percent of British tourism-oriented businesses reported some losses during the games compared to the same period last year.

Officials are still tallying up the total number of tourists who came to - or avoided - London this summer. The capital normally sees about 1.5 million tourists on average in August, but UKinbound and other trade groups say a significant number have chosen to steer clear of London, and even the rest of Britain because they thought it would be too busy.

The official visitor figures won't be available until September.

Tourism officials say that international Olympics visitors to London, including athletes, officials and tourists, totalled about 300,000. Domestic spectators from Britain made up the majority of people visiting games venues.

Restaurants and shops have complained that these games visitors did not spend as much money on food and shopping as typical summer tourists.

“The people who came to the games really didn't do very much sightseeing, didn't do very much shopping, didn't do very much eating out,” said Miles Quest, a spokesman for the British Hospitality Association.

London's hotels have hit about 80 percent occupancy, not more than typical August rates, Quest added.

Visa, the only credit card accepted at the Olympics, reported that international visitors to Britain spent more than 450 million pounds on their cards during the first week of the games, up by eight percent on the same time last year.

Around 12.7 million pounds were spent on Visa cards in London restaurants last week, an increase of almost 20 percent on a year ago. - Sapa-AP

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