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Why the Olympics could hurt London tourism

Olympic organizers “needlessly” reserved thousands of hotel nights for bigwigs and media attending the Games this summer, driving up hotel rates throughout London and sparking a tourism slump that could cost the city billions, according to industry analysts.

London’s Independent newspaper reports that in the early stages of planning for the event, organizers reserved a quarter more hotel nights than were necessary and have now handed back 120,000 of 600,000 room nights previously booked.

The article quotes a leading London-based tour operator saying the high lodging rates have driven business elsewhere — and not just during the July-August event, either.

“Prices have been so high that tourists are moving elsewhere. Overseas wholesalers who traditionally push London have switched to other cities this year,” said Neil Wootton of Premium Tours. “If the Parisian and Italian hoteliers do their job then the tours may never return to London.”

Hotel prices have risen about three-fold during the Games, the newspaper reports. For instance, a reservation made six months ago for August 2012 at the DoubleTree in central London cost 450 British pounds (about $700) or about 150 percent higher than the rate last August. The same room could be had tonight for about $260. Granted, it’s January, but still…

VisitBritian, the government’s tourism marketing office, told the paper it doesn’t expect any declines.

Is London and/or Great Britain on your travel radar this summer? And have the Olympics influenced whether to go or stay away?

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