Scotland business

London Olympic Games hopes for Scottish tourist bosses

Artist's impression of London's Olympic Stadium
Image caption The survey of European tour operators suggested a slump in bookings during the London Olympics

Scottish tourist bosses have said they are planning to capitalise on tourists being put off going to south-east England during the Olympics.

The Scottish Tourism Forum said the perception of congestion and higher prices could put tourists off visiting London.

It urged VisitScotland to boost its marketing activities to take advantage.

VisitScotland said it would "tactically target" those looking to get away from the South East during London 2012.

Their comments followed a survey by the European Tour Operators Association (ETOA), which suggested the UK capital could suffer a slump in visitors next summer.

The survey of 28 of its leading members, responsible for two million tourists a year, indicated tour operators to the UK were experiencing an average 90% downturn in bookings during the London Olympic Games.

The association claimed the data was "in stark relief" to expectations raised by the hotel industry and the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG).

Host cities

ETOA executive director Tom Jenkins said: "The expectations of visitor numbers currently circulating within the hotel industry are hugely inflated.

"If UK businesses are basing their plans on data in some prominent visitor forecasts, London will suffer financially as has been experienced by previous host cities."

Willie Macleod, from the Scottish Tourism Forum, said visitors to the Olympics or other major events were primarily drawn by the event itself, and could displace "normal" tourists who could be discouraged by perceptions of congestion and inflated prices for accommodation and other services.

He said: "Tour operators are unlikely to be able to obtain capacity at normally competitive rates from suppliers in London, leading to a loss of customer demand or a shift towards promotion of alternative destinations.

"There is a risk - if London is perceived as expensive and congested during the Olympics - that this will have a ripple effect on surrounding areas.

"This could be good news for Scotland which offers many reasons for Europeans to visit the country - indeed, this presents an opportunity to attract residents of London and the south east of England who might want to exchange the pressures of the Olympics for the pleasures of Scotland."

He added: "I'm sure that VisitScotland will already have recognised this and would urge it to engage in additional marketing and PR activity to capitalise on the opportunity."

VisitScotland chief executive Malcolm Roughead said: "The south of England represents a healthy proportion of Scotland's visitors, so we are already extremely active in pursuing this market as part of our Surprise Yourself campaign, which has already captured nearly £90m extra for the Scottish economy since March.

"Next summer represents a fantastic opportunity for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the south east, so we will be looking to tactically target those who are looking to get away through a series of promotions with existing partners."

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites