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London Olympics Are Distorting Hotel Market, Tour Operators Say

The 2012 Olympic Games in London are “distorting” the market for hotel rooms in the English capital, the European Tour Operators Association said.

“My members move about 20,000 bed nights in London every night in August,” Tom Jenkins, executive director of the association, said in an interview. “At the moment, we can’t book those bed nights for 2012. That’s business that’s gone. Once you scare that business away, it’s very difficult to reestablish that pattern.”

The London-based ETOA, which represents 500 operators including Expedia Inc. and Kuoni Reisen Holding AG, will publish its fourth Olympic Report today.

The London Olympics will attract more than 320,000 foreign visitors, national tourism agency VisitBritain said citing a study conducted by Oxford Economics. That’s more than recent Summer Olympics held in Europe.

A quarter of a million tourists traveled to the 1992 Games in Barcelona, while 150,000 foreigners visited the 2004 Athens Games. VisitBritain is responsible for marketing Britain abroad.

“Nobody has predicted the amount of visitors that they were going to receive with any degree of accuracy,” Jenkins said. “In general, hosting an Olympic Games does not lead to a huge tourism boom. The reason for this is that the Olympics are a sporting event, they’re not really a tourism event.”

Tourism generated between 2007 and 2017 by the London Games may be worth as much as 2.34 billion pounds ($3.7 billion) to the U.K. economy, according to VisitBritain.

Some tourists may assume London will be overpriced and crowded during the Games, which are scheduled July 27-Aug. 12, 2012, and stay away, Jenkins added.

“Both those perceptions are wrong,” he said. “What we need to do is make sure that everyone knows London is open, and London will be fairly priced during that period. We really want London to be the first place ever to have a normal tourist season during the Games.”

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