August 4th, 2010, 1:10 pm
Olympic Tourist Surge Drives Locals Out By QUINTON E BOSMAN.
LONDON- Where would you go if your city was about to be invaded by tourists? Would you stay there and get swallowed alive? Or would you run for shelter in the nearest suburb or town? This is a question that many Londoners have been faced with. The excitement and fireworks that have always surrounded the Olympic games can sometimes translate into doom and gloom for the host city. Images of overcrowded streets and transportation, violence, terrorism, and overall inconvenience plague the minds of those who would like to enjoy their everyday life. For many, the Olympics is as much a chore as it is a celebration.
The Telegraph reports that in 2010 London saw nearly 14.6 million visitors, a normal amount even in times of economic uncertainty. While London has always been a busy city, the traffic is still bearable according to Nisha Mehta a London native who recently moved to America.
“I came back to London during the Olympics but not for the Olympics. Honestly I was dreading it. I knew it would be more crowded than usual and definitely more frustrating. I have never seen so many crowds! This is a mad house!”
Mehta, who would be leaving shortly to avoid the intense crowds also alluded to a fear of terrorist plots.
“They say it every Olympic games and nothing usually happens but London is at the center of everything, I don’t think its smart to think that nothing will happen on the streets or on the tube.”
So far most residential areas of London have been virtually un-bothered by tourists but according to the BBC, the Tube, London’s world renowned underground transport system, carried a record breaking 4.4 million passengers on Friday. London overground transport system carried nearly 2.86 million passengers in one week. Still no major violence or terrorism has been reported in London. Small traces of pickpocketing have been witnessed, however this is nothing new for European countries.
So where have all the locals gone? So far there has been a strong mix of locals migrating to the countryside and to less busy suburbs, other European countries, and staying put in London. As Minkee Kim, a London native states:
“This may be the only time the Games are in my city during my lifetime. I don’t care as much about the stresses of crowds, its London, if you don’t like crowds, you probably shouldn’t be here.”
While this is true the Olympics may not be in London again for a long time, the current track record states otherwise as it is London’s third time hosting the games.
It is residents like Minkee who British Airways would be pleased with. Recently they launched a “tongue-in-cheek” campaign with the slogan, “Don’t fly. Support team GB.” Great Britain wants residents to stay in the country during the games to experience Olympic excitement and to reinforce British pride. The advertisement is placed all over London with a main focus on the Tube. The campaign also focused heavily on social media. This type of campaign may seem unusual as it would lead to lesser profits for the Airline however Washington Post reports that British Airways saw a 6.9 percent gain in revenue passenger kilometers.
Other European countries however have taken advantage of the expected exodus from London. Hostels and hotels have seen a major increase in revenue from London tourists. Even transcontinental transportation has raised prices. A Eurostar train ticket from London to Paris in October is roughly 68 pounds round trip as opposed to 79 pounds one way during the Olympics.
While it is a hassle for any city and its natives to host the Olympic Games, within Europe it may be just as strenuous to leave. If plans to leave London during the Olympics were not made far in advance, it may be worth it to stay in the madness.