Campaign: Tourism group decries London 2012's benefits

In the build-up to the first anniversary of London's successful bid to host the 2012 Olympics, the media focused their attention on speculation around the short and long-term benefits to tourism.

Campaign ETOA Olympics Report - NO Tourism Benefit
Client European Tour Operators Association
PR team Tarsh Consulting
Timescale April-July 2006
Budget Undisclosed

The European Tour Operators Association (ETOA) was concerned that inappropriate taxes would be levied on tourists to meet the cost of building the Olympic venues.

On the advice of Tarsh Consulting, ETOA undertook a study of inbound tourism to previous host cities to attempt to prove that major sporting events have historically been of little benefit to the tourism industry.

With the 2005 celebrations cut short because of 7/7, ETOA wanted to make sure it got its message across this year. It called for a government-backed tourism campaign and a commitment not to tax the tourist industry for 2012.

To raise the issue that the Olympic Games are not the great benefit to tourism that they are generally believed to be, and to provoke an informed debate.

Strategy and Plan
Anecdotal evidence from ETOA members suggested that the boost to tourism forecast for the Athens 2004 Olympics did not materialise. ETOA looked at government data from different recent host cities, including Barcelona and Sydney, which have tended to be regarded as highly successful Games in terms of their pull for tourists.

The study found that during any Olympics, normal businesses are effectively shut out. Attendees to the Games displace normal visitors, and regular tourists are put off by the perceived expense, congestion and lack of accommodation caused by the Games. It identified a consistent pattern that showed visitor numbers in decline immediately before, and up to two years after, the Games.

To promote these results, a media briefing was planned for the eve of the first anniversary of London winning the 2012 Olympics - 6 July - with news embargoed until the following day.

Measurement and Evaluation
Findings from ETOA's report were extensively cited in London 2012 anniversary coverage. Executive director Tom Jenkins was interviewed by more than 20 leading news organisations, and headlines were routinely on-
message, including ‘Games unlikely to boost tourism' (BBC Online), and ‘Tourism will be the loser' (Financial Times). The campaign also generated dozens of prominent news reports in national media, including Associated Press, Bloomberg, ITV, Newsweek, The Daily Telegraph and The Times.

Significant debate was provoked when national tourist body Visit­London slammed the report as having ‘muddled thinking and [using] selective statistics'.

ETOA successfully exploited media interest in the anniversary of London's winning bid. Executives from Visit­Britain and VisitLondon are due to attend the forthcoming ETOA con­ference to discuss the impact of the Olympics with tourism industry representatives.

Phil Davis, managing editor of, said the report was ‘timely and newsworthy, creating quite a stir as it was alone in questioning the value the Olympics may bring to UK tourism. ETOA helped give balance to the general pro-Olympics spin.'

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