LONDON – Tourism officials in Britain’s Lake District are alarmed by a steep drop in the number of Japanese visitors during the London Olympics, which have seen hotel prices soar and tough traffic restrictions imposed in the capital.
The decline will result in businesses in the picturesque area incurring heavy losses, the officials warned, amid growing concern about the negative effects of the games on Britain’s tourism sector.
Jonathan Denby, president of the Lakes Hospitality Association, said Japanese tour groups stopped visiting the area about a week before the Olympics kicked off July 27, and that there have been no further bookings until a week after they end Aug. 12. The number of tourists from Australia and China has also fallen noticeably, Denby, who owns four hotels in the area, added.
He said tour groups from Japan were put off by the exorbitant prices London hotels were initially charging during the Summer Games, with some inns that “normally quote £50 (about ¥6,000) a night charging £400 (nearly ¥50,000).” Many hoteliers subsequently slashed their fees in the run-up to the Olympics due to a lack of bookings.
Traffic disruptions in central London during the games also has deterred tourists.
The creation of special traffic lanes for Olympic officials and athletes, in addition to road closures, has made it much harder for tour buses to drop off and collect passengers at traditional tourist spots, such as Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London, according to Denby.
He said one local cruise company will lose a six-figure sum due to the disruption and that a lot of smaller hotels will be severely affected.
“Don’t think for a minute that I’m being hard on the Japanese. I fully understand the dilemma that they have been placed in. And we are looking forward to them coming back in September. We really value them,” said Denby.
Japan is the biggest overseas market for the Lake District, he said, with travelers attracted by its scenic walking trails and the fact that Beatrix Potter used to live in the area. The late author’s Peter Rabbit books have been used in Japan to teach children English.
Japanese tourists normally visit the region as part of a tour that includes London, the Cotswolds hills and Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh.