Tourism may fall in Olympics year, says Visit Britain


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Any increase in UK tourism numbers in this Olympic year is "against all the odds", the chairman of Visit Britain has warned.

Speaking to i on the fringes of the World Travel & Tourism Council conference in Tokyo yesterday, Christopher Rodrigues warned that any country that holds a major global event sees a decline in visitors and tourism spending that same year.

Mr Rodrigues' words carry weight as his agency is the public body responsible for marketing the UK across the globe. "Let's be absolutely clear about this, a flat year of year-on-year growth would be a good outcome," he said. "A flat year would mean that we've done well against all the odds, all the history."

Mr Rodrigues believes there will be spare hotel rooms in the capital during the games, despite the thousands of people who will descend on London to watch the two-week sporting jamboree. That increase will be offset by a decline in business travel, as major corporations will choose to hold their meetings and conferences in other parts of the world.

For the first three months of the year there has been a slight increase in visitor numbers, which Mr Rodrigues said puts the UK "ahead of budget".

He added that any tourism benefits were long-term, because the Olympics and Queen's Diamond Jubilee will act as a "showcase" for the country.

Mr Rodrigues said that the UK Olympic chiefs were well-prepared for the tourism dip, which many previous Olympic hosts had been surprised to suffer.

"There's a temptation for tourists to think that 'I'll visit another year'. I am told that no one has been quite as dispassionate about the real task of tourism and the Olympics as the UK has been," he said.