Costs deter Chinese from UK Olympics

Updated: 2012-05-23 07:40

By Shi Yingying in Shanghai (China Daily)

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Despite the efforts of British tourism authorities, Chinese travelers have been scared away from the country by high costs during the upcoming London Olympic Games.

Costs deter Chinese from UK Olympics

Elizabeth Richard, whao looks very similar to Queen Elizabeth II, talks to children at a tea party to promote the Queen's Diamond Jubilee at the Daning International Business Plaza in Shanghai on Tuesday. Yong Kai / for China Daily

While the Queen's look-alike appeared at a Shanghai shopping mall to lure them to the United Kingdom during the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, major travel agencies in Beijing and Shanghai were dropping plans to take tourists to the Games.


Instead, they encouraged travelers to postpone the trip to London until the end of the Games (July 27 to Aug 12) due to cost concerns.

"As far as I know, our travel agency has no special promotion in Beijing and Shanghai to organize group tours to London for the Games," said Liu Xin from China Youth Travel Service's department of outbound tourism.

"It's just too risky for even a big agency like us to do Olympic business. Take booking flights as an example. Full costs need to be paid at least three months in advance to secure the spots, which is much more than usual, plus tourists wouldn't make firm travel plans three months ahead of schedule. We're simply not sure whether it's a profitable deal."

Liu said she would advise her customers to avoid the Olympic peak season.

Paul Rogers, British Airways' marketing manager for the Middle East and Asia-Pacific regions, said the company had no plan to put additional direct flights between Shanghai and London as well as Beijing and London this summer.

"But there is 36 percent additional capacity between Shanghai and London since we changed the airplanes into bigger ones at the beginning of this year," said Rogers. "Clearly we'd like to do more on the routes, but before that, we need to be confident that we can fill this extra capacity."

An average traveler is expected to pay an extra 3,000 to 4,000 yuan ($470 to $630) on a 10-day trip to the UK during the Olympics compared with last summer, according to Gu Chao from Shanghai's travel agency SAL Tour.

Yet despite the lack of interest from Chinese tourists, hoteliers in the UK can't wait to get into their most profitable season, as this summer's Olympics are expected to bring a boom to British hotels.

According to consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, occupancy rates for London hotels in 2012 are expected to reach almost 84 percent, the best since the 1970s. Occupancy outside London is expected to reach 72 percent, the highest ever.

Wu Yiwen, Shanghai-based public relation manager for Northern England's Yorkshire tourism bureau, joked that she replaced her promotional slogan this year with "stay in Yorkshire for the London Olympics".

"It takes you about three hours of driving from Yorkshire to London, but it (the hotel rate in Yorkshire) is much cheaper. And I'm telling you many people are doing that," she said.

Zhao Huanyan, an analyst with Hotelsolution Consulting based in Shenzhen, said hoteliers in two-thirds of the UK's tourist destinations raised their room rates.

"One four-star hotel east of London increased its rate from $300 to $1,600 simply because it's close to the Olympic venue. That's much more than the increase in Shanghai's Expo hotel boom."

Thanks to the Olympics, Zhao said the UK is expecting an additional 123 million pounds ($194 million) from hotel revenues for 2012 compared with last year.

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