POSTED: October 9th 2012

Weather and Olympics a tourism killer for London attractions

Natural History Museum / ALVA photo
Natural History Museum / ALVA photo

Sports Features Communications

 October 9 - The 2012 London Olympics Games may have been a tourism boost to the capital of England in one sense, but in another, it was a killer.

The Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) has released figures which show attendance at many of London’s chief tourism attractions was sharply down during the Olympic games.

Some of the biggest tourism venues saw attendance fall off by as much as 61 percent in the first few weeks of the Olympics compared to the same period in 2011, said Bernard Donoghue, chief executive of ALVA. 

Visitors weren’t the only ones staying away in droves. Residents left too. The Financial Times in the July 31, 2012, edition called London a veritable ghost town.

Visitors were down 15 percent overall from May to August compared to the same period in 2011, Donoghue said. The report states the gardens and leisure sector of London’s tourism industry suffered the most with attendance down 21.3 percent. Along with the drop in visitors came a 12.5 percent decline in catering revenue. This category includes places like the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, The Royal Horticultural Society at Wisley and ZSL London Zoo. 

Coming in a close second, London’s cathedral and heritage site visitations were down 20.3 percent. Retail sales suffered a nearly identical 20.2 percent drop. The Tower of London, Kensington Palace, Houses of Parliament, St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey make up the more prominent attractions on this kind of tour.

Museums and galleries suffered the least, dropping on 13.1 percent in visits compared to the same time last year.

The decline was not confined to London either. Across England, tourism was down 4.7 percent, the ALVA report states.

The decline has hit these tourism related venues particularly hard.

“For London attractions the Olympic period was one of their worst trading periods in living memory. For visitor attractions the summer is their equivalent of retailers’ Christmas. Once lost the business can’t be won back,” Donoghue said. “These figures from our 43 members, who manage some nearly 2,000 tourist sites and welcome over 100 million domestic and overseas visitors each year are definitely sobering reading and show that the summer of 2012 has been a difficult time financially for our most popular and best-loved visitor attractions.”

Despite that, the ALVA is optimistic that the Olympic Games will turn a long term benefit. The Olympics had the highest television audience in the history of TV. The ALVA is working to turn those TV viewers into visitors in the future by working with local and national tourism boards.

Some credit for the tourism drop is also being attached to Britain’s wettest summer in 100 years. That was most noticeable in Scotland where gardens and rural attractions where hit hard while popular sights in Glasgow and Edinburgh had good attendance.

Keywords · London 2012 · Association of Leading Visitor Attractions · tourism attractions

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