Olympic Games 'Scare Off Other Tourists'

Emma Birchley, East of England correspondent

Tourism is expected to slump during the Olympics and not just in London - as high prices keep visitors away.

The 2012 Games were predicted to be a big money-spinner attracting hordes of holidaymakers to the UK, but bookings for many attractions, hotels and tours are down around 33% and show no sign of picking up.

Select Travel in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, organises exclusive group tours across Britain and is expecting its quietest July for 20 years.

"A lot of the agents overseas that would naturally feature the UK in their programmes just have not done so because you are not able to sell a tour to the UK if you don't have hotel accommodation or the prices are too high," managing director John Martin said.

"What we have found is that the demand has moved not to other regions of the UK but to other countries in Europe."

Children's activity centre Camp Beaumont in north Norfolk has also been affected, and general manager James Turner said business is thriving - except during the Games - with late July bookings down 60%.

"It's been a lot more difficult for us and the combination of flight prices and the perception of people coming into the UK of what's going to be happening during that time," Mr Turner said.

"I think where it has raised the profile of the nation it has made it more difficult during that time."

And part of that perception is that prices will soar, and with hotels that is certainly the case as some have doubled their rates during the Olympics and overbooking by the Games' organising committee means many rooms are expected to remain empty.

And it is not just London. The spike in prices is being seen in tourist destinations like Cambridge too where almost two thirds of hotels are charging more during the Games.

The tourism trade association UKinbound says its members' bookings are down 30 to 40% in July and August, but chief executive Mary Rance is not entirely surprised.

"The Olympics themselves are not often a magnet for regular visitors," she said.

"The people who come for the Games are obviously the athletes, their family, friends, and supporters of those particular activities, not those people who regularly come to the UK in July and August, which are of course peak times for inbound tourism."

It means for many attractions and tour operators, the event that was hyped as a big money-maker looks set instead to leave them out of pocket.

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