Published on Thursday, April 19, 2012

Inbound operators see 50% drop in bookings during London 2012

High air taxes are putting people off coming the London Olympics, business leaders told the culture secretary Jeremy Hunt precisely 100 days before the Games start.

Tour operators have seen a 50% drop in inbound bookings for the third quarter of the year which covers the Olympics, according to UKinbound chief executive Mary Rance, who described the figures as "disappointing".

She said bookings from April to June, including during the Queen's Jubilee celebrations, were down 25%.

"It is clear that Air Passenger Duty is a major contributing factor deterring the regular visitors from coming to the UK, both before, and during the time of the Olympics," she said. 

In a letter published today, industry leaders say arrivals from Australia will be 25% down and there will be 26% fewer people from New Zealand coming to London during the event.

Although overall flight arrivals are up 31% for July and August, they said other European cities are seeing similar increases. They say this shows people are avoiding flying into the UK.

In the letter to Hunt they said it was "inconceivable" that this year's 8% rise in APD won't deter visitors.

Anne Godfrey, chief executive of the Guild of Travel Management Companies said: "The tax avoidance measures that passengers are taking to get around paying APD are hardly surprising.

"It’s likely that more and more passengers will explore ways of circumventing the tax, particularly following the increase in APD by a further 8% last month, at the same time as many European countries are cutting their air passenger taxes or abolishing them altogether."

Simon Buck, chief executive of the British Air Transport Association said a family of four could save £200 by flying to the US from an airport outside the UK." said: "By continuing to ratchet up the tax on flying from UK airports, the Government will only drive even more passengers to cheat the taxman and fly to their destination on separate tickets via continental hub airports such as Amsterdam, instead of directly from the UK," said Buck.

"That isn’t good for UK business, the travelling public, jobs, the economy or even in the long run, the Treasury."

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  • Remember 1977

    Those of us who were around in incoming travel in 1977 recall that business dropped off for the Silver Jubilee week too. As for the Olympics I have mentioned here before that having been to two Olympic Games in the course of my career the only foreign visitors are those fanatical about a sport and the friends and family of the competitors. The average sports fan knows they can see it better on TV so why travel across the world for it? The advantage for UK tourism will be millions seeing our country on TV and hopefully being motivated to come to visit in the years ahead. That is dependent on everything going well, including the weather, and the foreign TV commentators making complimentary comments. You reap what you sow though and as the British media have often been less than complimentary about the organisation of the Olympics in other cities I don't see why we in Britain should expect the world to be full of praise for our efforts. I hope they are, but I am not overly optimistic. There are no dress rehearsals for an event like the Olympics and the ability to make changes fast is the key to success. In both Seoul and Atlanta the initial transport planning proved to be inadequate. In Seoul the authorities reorganised overnight and from day 2 it worked much better, in Atlanta they stuck to the pre-planned schedule with dire results. In Barcelona the rail company organised an additional train down the coast at very short notice to accommodate a lot of British visitors who had stayed late to see an unexpected appearance by a British athlete in the final of an event. Can you see that happening here? On such things will the tourist legacy of the Olympics rest, and I am far from sanguine.

    By Martin Drew, Wednesday, November 2, 2016

  • Stop the whinging

    All this whining about APD has led me to conclude that these whingers are suffering from one fundamental problem - an inability to accept change. We live in a world where carbon reduction is a fact of life, and responsible governments, particularly in the US and the EU are mutually obliged to control the main causes of CO2 emmissions, the airline industry being the fastest growing cause. Wake up and accept reality!! Furthermore, I am prepared to run a questionnaire at Luton Airport next week to find out whether regular passengers have any idea about this APD carry-on. I doubt many of them will, and I suspect they are more likely to worry about the cost of fuel and energy.

    By Gary Phillips, Thursday, April 19, 2012

  • Utter nonsense!

    So it's APD that's responsible for the drop in visitor numbers (and calves being born with two heads, etc. etc.)? Really, an extra few dollars on a $3000 holiday? Or is it the simple fact that THE OLYMPICS ARE ON!!! A few sport-minded people will come over to watch a few sporting events, but all the normal visitors will AVOID BRITAIN LIKE THE PLAGUE because of the Olympics, possibly for the whole of 2012. Isn't this history repeating itself? In Greece in 2004, hotelliers and tour companies rubbed their hands in glee and put up all their prices, expecting a bonanza year. Then they came a cropper, as all the regular tourists stayed away, with visitor numbers well down on a normal year, not just in Athens itself during the actual few Olympic weeks, but from the whole of Greece for the whole of that year (as all us non-sporting people simply knew that 'the Olympics are on in Greece, 2004', we didn't really know or care exactly when or where) One well-known UK train company raised all its prices for the 2012 Olympics, then discovered business was actually down, then had to lower prices again (in fact, have a seat sale) to regain business (incidentally upsetting everyone who'd pre-booked at the higher price, having been told space would be at a premium). And come to think of it, APD doesn't apply to them, but the same thing is happening. So it cannot be APD, can it?!

    By Mark Smith, Thursday, April 19, 2012

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