London Olympics: Are You Ready for the London Olympics?

The London Olympics is set to radically transform the UK tourism industry for years to come. UK hoteliers can expect to discover new markets and new revenues – but are they truly prepared for the London Olympics?

We turn to leading brand and marketing strategist, Stuart Harrison from The Profitable Hotel Company and ask how hoteliers can prepare themselves for the London Olympics. How should UK hoteliers prepare and position themselves for the London Olympics?

Harrison: I think firstly, they need to consider the before-and-after impact of visitors arranging their holidays around the event itself. This may include pre and post stays and I think the impact will be felt right across the country.

Secondly, they should consider the impact of the event itself. This will be intensive in terms of occupancy and rate and most London hotels have sophisticated models in place to deal with this. For example, some are holding out and others have done deals selling all their rooms at a known price.

For the provinces this could be a “curate’s egg”. We will see high occupancies in those pockets of activity located near Olympic venues, while other areas could suffer from the lack of both domestic leisure breaks and residential meetings. Do you think it’s important for hoteliers to incorporate London Olympics-related ideas into their packages?

Harrison: In terms of the “welcome mat”, clearly all hoteliers should use the occasion to create a unique atmosphere – whether directly benefiting or not. It is fundamentally important that the entire UK hotel industry recognises that it will have to step up to the plate and offer a first-class welcome to what could possibly be completely new inbound markets. What kind of investment is expected in the UK’s sports and leisure infrastructure as a result of the games?

Harrison: Although there will be an increase in sporting activity post the Olympics – as witnessed by the use of tennis courts post Wimbledon – it would be folly in the economic climate to expect a whole new infrastructure of investment in facilities. In the first instance, Government will have to ensure that those facilities that had to be built for the Olympics retain a momentum within those sports.

There will be an opportunity for some hoteliers – or even wider accommodation providers such as universities – to ride a longer wave with some sports. New awareness will be built many sports and we could find certain sport-proud nations becoming a new niche market. Similarly, a regional area that has experienced significant investment for a particular sport could see a more international presence going forward – this is especially true for cycling, sailing and rowing. What happens after the games? Should we prepare for a decline?

Harrison: Certainly not: we are likely to experience a long-term “halo” affect! With the UK under the spotlight, we can expect a sudden surge of interest in the country and a rise in inbound visitors. 2012 presents an opportunity to the UK hospitality industry – how should we best maximise that opportunity?

Harrison: The overall opportunity has to be grasped for the good of Brand Britain. Sadly, few people understand how to think strategically let alone invest in their product at that level of thinking. So yes, of course there are huge long-term opportunities to build on a fresh awareness of Britain as a country that has more to offer than just history.

Today you can immediately associate great cities around the world with their involvement in hosting the Games – both winter and summer. We need to grasp that too and at long last we have a Prime Minister who understands the important of tourism.

His speech in August was a profound tipping point in the understanding of how important tourism is to the economy. That is not the same as pouring central government money in to a quango, but supporting the real free thinkers who can make this happen around the world.

About Stuart Harrison: Harrison is Principal of The Profitable Hotel Company, which undertakes strategic projects, audits and sales and marketing training within the hospitality and leisure industry. He is also a hotel industry representative on Visit Britain’s Americas Interest Group.

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