London’s hotel bookings during the Olympic period (27 July to 12 August) are down a third on last summer, with a travel agency citing high prices as the reason for the decline.
Credit ratings agency Moody’s last month said that the Olympics would significantly benefit the hotel industry; however hotel wholesaler JacTravel is forecasting that visitor arrivals to London in July will be down more than 35 per cent on 2011, and 30 per cent down in August.
Mario Bodini, chief executive of JacTravel, said that Olympic expectations had been too optimistic. “It’s a great event – great publicity for the country – but what we need is sensible hotel pricing, and to make sure it goes back to normal very quickly.”
JacTravel estimates that four-star rated hotels in central London that usually charge between £80 and £120 per night during the peak season have increased prices to £200 to £415.
Hotel prices distorted when organisers block-booked 40,000 of London’s 100,000 rooms for Games athletes, officials, media and sponsors. Twenty per cent of these have since been released back onto the market.
Chief executive of trade association UK Inbound Mary Rance remarked: “The demand is still there internationally for people to come to the UK.
“There’s plenty of availability in London, more than enough hotel rooms, but rates have to be commercially viable. Hotels and tour operators have to work together to better maximise the opportunity and fill those beds.”
Rance fears that many visitors to the UK have already been to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and revealed a UK Inbound members’ survey also anticipates tourism bookings during the Games to be lower than the year before.
Worries about visitor shortfall contrast with available flight data, with research showing a 13 per cent rise in bookings for flights to London during the Olympic period compared with the same time a year ago. UK agents say that the spike can be accounted for by Games visitors’ unusually early reservations and that a significant portion of the travellers who have already booked could be the 11,000 athletes staying in the Olympic Village accommodation.