The 2012 Games an Emotional Trap?

Olympics in London 2012

Many of us are in the tourism industry are all too familiar with the effect of major events on destinations after the stadiums go dark – the inevitable post-event dip…

The London 2012 Olympic Games flame has been extinguished, and the flag officially handed over to the proud hosts in 2016, Rio de Janeiro. As widely acknowledged, the London Games were a great success – showcasing both the warmth and eccentricity of the host nation whilst never detracting from the main event – the competitive beauty of each of the sporting disciplines. The world became transfixed on numerous emotional comebacks, stirring victories, new world records, along with the return of familiar favourites and the introduction to fresh fame-achieving faces.

For Britain, the 2012 Olympic were the greatest Olympic Games in more than a century.  Truthfully it was their greatest-ever, with an impressive collection of both unforgettable moments combined with gold, silver and bronze medals.  The country stands proud.

And for the moment, the floodlights are shinning on the London Paralympics. However, for us in the business of tourism, it is time to ask the real question – what impact will the Games have on increasing tourism demand?

Before and during the games we witnessed the effect of the local authorities’ warnings around Games-related traffic congestion, hassles of traveller movements, and general anticipated chaos that an additional 600,000 extra overseas visitors would have on the City. Ironically, because of these warnings, and the Games events being for the most part outside of the city itself, London was a pleasure. For the few non Game attendees, getting around, sight-seeing and dining reservations were never easier.

But back to the central question – I am concerned that after all of the great mood and spirit generated by the Games, there is little effective action been taken to capitalize on the glow.

Many of us are in the tourism industry are all too familiar with the effect of major events on destinations after the stadiums go dark – the inevitable post-event dip. After the closing ceremony fireworks end, the hotels empty out and frequently the travel industry grind to a halt, for months. In this instance, the focus of travelers will, unless inspired, move beyond London. London could quickly become last season…

What does this mean? We need to be clear of the impact – good and bad – of major events. And must plan and promote accordingly. Now is the time to ensure that post-event interest and activity is re-ignited. Now is the time to ensure that we sell destination London and the United Kingdom.  The medal count and sold out event has become meaningless for travellers. We need to make sure there is still reason to love London.

Hosting major events is a huge high for the travel industry. It is however our job to make sure that we manage the risks of altitude sickness. London, take action, let’s ensure that you don’t fall into the same trap as others host destinations.

The Current & Anticipated Absurdity of UK Arrivals

London Olympics 2012In 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.