99 days to the London Summer Olympics; everyone take a deep breath!
Yesterday I was talking about how recent reports that the London Olympics could cost $38 billion scared the heck out of me. It's a crazy amount, for sure.
But the Games are coming and there's damned little anyone can do except to make them work. They will, I'm sure. There will be great highs and a few lows and tons of friendly volunteers and folks will have a great time.
How many visitors will come? That's a good question. Olympic bid officials always exaggerate the
potential tourism benefits when they're trying to convince government to give them money. It happens in every Olympics.
But equally predictable are the "woe is us, the sky is falling and NOBODY WILL COME TO OUR CITY" comments.
Today, I read on travelmole.com where some London business leaders are warning that high air taxes imposed by the government are scaring people away. Personally, I kinda doubt it, but here's the travelmole report.
"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.
I think it's quite conceivable that it won't make an iota of difference. I mean, if I was keen on heading to London for the Games would I really worry about another 8 per cent? I don't think so. Fifteen or 20 per cent? Maybe. But not eight per cent, even if it meant $800 on a $10,000 trip.
This horrible sense of doom happens with every Olympics, you know. In Sydney, remember how folks were convinced the beach volleyball was going to run Bondi Beach? I was at Bondi a couple years ago and it looked pretty damned good to me. Remember the horrible headlines in Vancouver during the rain and the talk about the stalled cars on the mountain and that terrible tragedy on the luge track? It was awful, but the Games finished with an incredible fluorish.
With 99 days to go, there are no sports headlines to take up space in the papers, no winners and losers. So the focus is, naturally, on what could go horribly wrong. Sorry, but it's the nature of the media. And it makes for good headlines that a lot of consumers want to read.
So, yes, there will be tons of stories over the next 98 or 99 days about doom and disaster. But then the Games will start and most of the focus will be on Jamaican sprinters and British cyclists and Canadian rowers and the world will proceed as normal. I think everyone ought to take a bit a chill pill over the pond.
Government opposition types and, I'm sure, the London tabloids both will take that suggestion to heart as we get closer to the Games. Won't they?