Hosting Olympics can damage tourism


Staging the Olympics is detrimental to the tourism growth trends of both the host cities and countries, according to industry research.

Cities bidding to stage the Olympics tend to talk up the lasting tourism benefits of hosting the event, but the evidence of recent games suggest the opposite, says the European Tour Operators Association, which represents travel agents.

Studying the latest tourism figures coming out of Greece, the ETOA says that Greece has been falling behind the growth rates of regional competitors Croatia and Turkey since Athens held the 2004 Olympics.

Greece’s growth rate in visitor arrivals is more than 20 per cent behind Turkey’s since 2004, the ETOA said.

Similarly, Australia’s growth rate has not kept pace with New Zealand’s since Sydney staged the Olympics in 2000.

Sydney suffered three consecutive years of tourism decline after 2000, the ETOA said. Evidence from some tour operators selling China as a destination suggests that Beijing is unlikely to reap a tourism benefit from staging next month’s Olympics.

The Beijing Tourism Bureau in May was reporting that five-star hotel occupancy was at 77 per cent for the 17 days of the games and four-star occupancy was at 44 per cent.

The UK government predicts that London hosting the 2012 Olympics will boost tourism revenues by £2.1bn over the next 10 years, provided the tourism industry improves facilities and hospitality levels.

But Tom Jenkins, executive director of the ETOA, argued that the tourism benefit of staging the Olympics was something of a myth, saying that the effect of staging a large sports event is to scare regular visitors away from host cities, not just during the events themselves but in the months leading up to them.

“The principal problem is the impression that everything will be overcrowded and overpriced and this blights a region,” Mr Jenkins said.

As visitors become deterred, the effect on subsequent demand becomes detrimental, losing the momentum of sales and suppressing marketing, he added.