PtG Article 07.07.2006

Tourists are deterred by the Olympics, claims new report

The European Tour Operators Association is not looking forward to London hosting the Olympics in 2012. The association has just released a report which shows that Olympic host cities suffer a drop in tourism growth in the years surrounding the event.

European Tour Operators Association (ETOA) represents more than 400 companies that bring tourists to Europe, and it has produced the report in order to examine the claims that the tourism industry is the main beneficiary of a country’s decision to host the Olympic Games.

Comparing the experiences of Atlanta, Seoul, Barcelona and Sydney of hosting the Olympics, the ETOA report points out that there is a reasonably consistent pattern of a peak in tourism immediately up to the event followed by a through in the host cities for  some time after the Games.

“These findings may seem surprising because during the Games the city’s hotels are full. But the presence of the Olympics deter regular tourists: they percieve that the city will be full, disrupted, congested and over-priced. A reduction in the numbers of regular tourists halts the conveyor belt of satisfied customers bringing more visitors. “The word of mouth” falls silent,” says Tom Jenkins, Executive Director of ETOA.

The report also shows there is no longer-term benefit for tourism in hosting the Olympics. In Barcelona, tourism growth since the Games has been outstripped by other comparable European cities such as Prague and Dublin. And down under Australia and New Zealand’s tourism rates were growing at the same rate in the five years prior to the Olympics but since then Australia’s growth rate has been much less than that of New Zealand.

The value of media exposure is overrated

 The report also takes a stab at IOC’s claims about the advantages to the tourist industry of a host city’s media exposure during Olympic Games.

“It is assumed that the culture or “lifestyle” of the host country will make an impression on the minds of the television audience and will manifest itself in increased numbers of visitors. But the existence of visitors who are “induced” to come through watching sporting events on television is counter-intuitive,” the report states.

The report notes that well-known sporting locations such as Wembley (football), Wimbledon (tennis), and Kennington (cricket) have not become major non-sporting resorts.

“Sports fans watch television in order to enjoy the sport. This activity is notoriously narrowly focussed, as viewers get ever closer to the athletes, and each move is broken down frame by frame. The moment this is over, their attention is drawn to the next event,” the report concludes.

The ETOA director demands that the British government takes action to ensure that the growth rate of local tourism is not disrupted by the Olympics.

“London is a gret tourist city. But the Olympic Games do not turn tourists into sports fans or sports fans into tourists,” says Tom Jenkins.

Read the European Tour Operators Association’s report on the Olympics