In a matter of weeks, Great Britain is going to see an unprecedented wave of tourists lining up at immigration desks across the kingdom. Hundreds of thousands of tourists, each one excited to have their passport stamped so they can spend their time and money in London and the surroundings areas.
The first wave will come for the Diamond Jubilee, the second wave for the Olympic Games and Paralympics, and after that, the hoped for waves of tourism legacy.
Last month Heathrow already saw a 6% rise in capacity, pushing it beyond 70m passengers in a 12-month period for the first time in its history. Local Parliamentarians are warning that Heathrow may not be able to cope with the extra passengers. The consequence is that travellers will face endless lines, something I personally recently encountered, at border control.
Why? Because the UK has decided that the most important major events of 2012, if not the decade, do not warrant special treatment at Great Britain’s front door. A skeleton staff of immigration officials is adequate. The tourists can wait. Having personally been one of masses forced to wait almost two hours to get through immigration (a length of time longer than my actual flight’s flying time), the feeling of annoyance, is acute. I, like the hundreds waiting in line around me, could not help but think: “how are they going to do the Olympics?”
The immigration and tourism officials of one of the world’s foremost tourism destinations –a destination on top of wish lists of millions of travellers, and set to experience an economic impact of the Games alone is estimated at GBP 2 billion – needs to see just how unwelcoming they are looking, and acting.
How have they forgotten the fundamental of hospitality? This is not complicated – we learnt these lessons as children when taught about how to treat visitors to our homes: welcome your guests, make them feel at home, help them as much as you can, and do all you can to ensure they enjoy their visit. I hope they wake up before the damage is done and through their actions deterring tourists from returning.