London praised as Olympics come to town

BA’s Lawn Captains practice at Park Live. Copyright Cattermole, Getty, BA
BA’s Lawn Captains practice at Park Live. Copyright Cattermole, Getty, BA

While the Olympics has seen the UK travel industry face a summer of uncertainty this year there is no doubt that the industry and nation have got behind the event in their own way.

Numbers from ABTA and VisitEngland have suggested around a fifth will head abroad this summer while a similar number will stay in the UK but either way several are still undecided if they are going away at all so there is still time to get late bookings in.

London’s performance ‘outstanding’

In London the hotel market has witnessed a late surge in bookings with properties set for 80.4% committed occupancy during the Olympics period, according to analysts TravelClick. Tuesday 31 July is the busiest day for hotel stays with 85% occupancy, with prices reaching a high of £193 a night for Sunday 5 August. Hotel comparison site also rated the capital as the tenth popular destination for the UK summer, although the Spanish and American favourites continue to top the table alongside Dubai, Albufeira and Paphos.

ETOA has praised the capital for its Olympic tourism performance, saying its record Olympic figures are ‘outstanding’ for a host city. It is estimated London’s hotels will have 60,000 foreign tourists per night during the games, where Sydney had 25,000, Athens 13,000 and Beijing 27,000 per night. Although London could normally anticipate 300,000 a day in August its figures are higher than averages for games and early August generally. LOCOG is sending more of its ‘Olympic Family’ than it has to other games, with the press, officials and corporate sponsors said to be boosting hotel business with value for money rates, although consumers have paid for triple the normal daily rate.

“It is important to emphasise how well London is doing compared with other Olympic Games, and what good news there is for potential visitors,” added Tom Jenkins, executive director at ETOA.

Free WiFi in West End

In addition there was more good news for the West End yesterday when it announced a new free WiFi network has been launched across the area covering Oxford Street, Regent Street, Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus and Parliament Square with plans to cover Covent Garden and other areas of Westminster in the future. It will offer free unlimited WiFi for all mobile networks throughout the Olympics.

Airline involvement

Meanwhile although headline sponsor British Airways may have confused some with its Home Advantage campaign, the boy featured in its television advertisement has been offered tickets to the closing ceremony after giving his fee to charity. Isaac Rodrigues-Mendes donated his fee having already been a fan of the airline, which his mother worked for the 80s and 90s. When BA learnt he had given the money to its charity, it offered the tickets. Other initiatives from BA have included its tuck boxes for Team GB athletes and the ‘Park Live Presented by British Airways’, which is set to be the ‘Henman Hill’ of the Olympics. It was tested earlier this week by the airline’s staff and volunteers and will hold up to 10,000 visitors at a time to watch the games and ceremonies on giant LED screens.

Other airlines have been getting in on the games, with Gulf Air showing the action live onboard its planes throughout the Olympics period. BA competitor Virgin Atlantic has gone with a new free iPhone and iPad app that includes itineraries from crew and famous Londoners on what to do in the capital.

In the States…

Overseas, the Empire State Building will be lit up in the colours of the nations competing in the Olympic Games. The four sides of the building will illuminate with the colours of the competing countries’ flags each night of the competition, starting with red, white and blue for USA and GB today. 

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