OLYMPICS IS DETERRING HOLIDAYMAKERS FROM WALES, TOURISM OPERATORS SAY
Welsh tourism operators say the London Olympics have left their attractions deserted as would-be holidaymakers are flocking to the Games.
Ashford Price, the managing director of Swansea’s National Showcaves Centre, last week said a “deadly cocktail” of rain and recession is making this the worst summer season since the foot-and-mouth outbreak of 2001.
But other operators say the Olympics has also played a part in stifling trade at the most critical point of the season during the school holidays.
Businesses in central London say their trade took a big knock around the start of the Games, with West End theatres saying demand fell by 40%.
But near the Olympic Park in east London retail analysts Experian say footfall rose by 7%.
Some operators believe a similar result has been played out here.
While firms in Cardiff say they have seen trade boosted by Olympic football at the Millennium Stadium, out in the nation’s tourism heartland of West Wales some suggest the Games have blighted business.
Geoff Haden, who runs the Clyne Farm Centre, in Mayals, Swansea, said after a succession of poor summers his firm has learnt to cope with rain and recession in recent years.
But he believes the Games has turned many would-be holidaymakers into “couch potatoes” and made this the most difficult time his self-catering cottages have faced in more than 20 years.
Mr Haden, 68, said: “Outside of Cardiff the Olympics have not brought any benefit to Wales. In fact, I think when the season is analysed it will have a negative effect as more of the population turn into couch potatoes.
“I have been running Clyne Farm for over twenty years and this year is the one with the most uncertainty – at least with Foot and Mouth you knew with what you were dealing.”
Mr Haden, who with son, Stuart, 39, and daughter Sarah , 34 – both former Welsh international hockey players – journeyed to London to see the men’s triathlon as well as group-stage hockey matches, believes his business has been about 20% down.
“Hopefully it won’t be a long-term effect, but you can never tell with these things.”
Before the games a study by the European Tour Operators Association (ETOA) argued the benefits the Olympics could bring to tourism had been overstated.
Evidence suggests that the Games in Barcelona, Sydney and Athens had no real long-term benefits for tourism.
The ETOA’s Olympic Report said there was “no strong link” between sporting events and increased tourism.
Nigel and Emily Clark, the owners of Amroth Bay Holidays, in Narberth, Pembrokeshire, say many families are sacrificing breaks for the chance to experience a ‘home Games’.
Ticket prices for athletics finals at the game vary between £50 and £725.
The couple say a family break in even the ‘highest specification’ caravan on their holiday park could cost less than Games tickets for a family of four.
Mr Clark said: “It does not take much fathoming to realise that the Olympics are drawing money from many Welsh small businesses in the tourist trade as people are forced to choose between a holiday and the Olympics.
“And of course the Olympics is not just one sporting event like a rugby international. It is many sports and therefore attracts many more people over the same period, which coincides with the one period in the year tourism business rely on to earn enough money to keep them through the autumn and winter.”
But Visit Cardiff say the Olympic football matches held at the Millennium Stadium have “struck a chord”.
Bookings through Cardiff & Co, the company set up to promote the city, are up by more than a third for July, compared with 2011.
Visit Cardiff spokesman Ed Townsend said: “Hoteliers are telling us they are doing well this summer compared with last year and the evidence from our bookings is that it is certainly the case.
“You’ve really only got to look around the city to tell – the place has had a buzz about it even with the bad weather.”
Chair of the Wales Tourism Alliance Chris Osborne, who owns the Fourcroft Hotel, in Tenby, Pembrokeshire, believes the Olympics has not helped Welsh tourism, but the rain and recession have had a much greater impact.
Mr Osborne, who recently said he’s seen a 25% downturn in visitors to his hotel, said: “I have no doubts that it’s not helping. If there are any keen Olympic spectators that can’t get there the chances are they’ll be watching on television and they’re going to be disinclined to take a holiday at this time.
“But if there are people who have had enough already they may choose this period exactly to take a holiday.”