August 7th, 2012
Cost For Olympic Gold
By QUINTON E BOSMAN.
LONDON- Tourism is not a new concept to London. Each year millions of visitors come to visit the world famous city to experience a multitude of historic sites and British culture. With a recent spike in popularity from the royal wedding, England once again has taken center stage in the world as it hosts the Olympic games for the third time. As a town known for pomp and circumstance, the Olympics are sure to bring bragging rights back to the rainy city. Pride does come at a significant cost however. With a substantial increase in tourist foot traffic, that means more hotels, restaurants and stores accommodating the masses. This should translate into a sizable gain for England’s economy. There are many factors however, that go along with making sure the risk of hosting the Olympics is worth the reward. Considering shaky trends from cities who have hosted the Olympic games in the past, London is no exception. Vendors may see a temporary increase in revenue, but what is the lasting effect for other facets of the city?
Naturally, hosting the Olympic games brings an opportunity to see increased revenue from tourists. Arguably the biggest to benefit from the increase are street vendors and local shop owners. Vincent Branfield, a local vendor expresses early concerns about the Olympic crowds and the effects on business:
“At first I was pretty nervous for the games to get here with all the crowds and everything. I wasn’t sure if that would scare away customers but it definitely hasn’t. It’s crazy how many people I’ve seen in this past week alone.”
Branfield, who sells London souvenirs made it clear that part of his increase comes from tourists who are looking to bring home keepsakes from London but not pay prices for official Olympic souvenirs. As the official Olympic gear has been trademarked, many vendors have opted to sell more traditional souvenirs, a tactic that according to Branfield, may be the only way to survive.
Seeing an increase in revenue from souvenirs does not necessarily translate into a substantial gain for the city or its residents. Many commuters, shop owners and local residents have become more complacent due to the increase in tourist spending. While vendors can go to where the action is, shop owners cannot. Instead they must promote the Olympics wherever they can. This also adds to a false sense of revenue gain for the city. Outward gains are concentrated on Olympic apparel and London souvenirs, which leaves businesses who have no ties to the games, out in the cold. The BBC recently referenced a figure from Experian that showed on Tuesday, foot traffic in East London had fallen by 9.6% from last year and West London by 4.5%. This does not mean that retailers have not tried different tactics. Throughout Regent street storefronts are completely decorated with Olympic decorations and even supportive flyers for team GB. Apple has even gone as far as to release free Olympic iPad and iPhone pins everyday during the games. These tactics should offset tourist concentration in East London, however they have not completely held successful as of yet.
Now consider local employees who have even less ties to the games than shop owners. Many of the business districts in London become overcrowded with tourists, mainly sightseeing or using public transportation. Deniz Karatepe, a London press officer recounts past struggles with getting to work.
“There are times where people can’t even fit on the tube. I’ve never seen that before. It’s just an extra hassle for everybody, and are we really making that much money off of it?”
The games have brought massive attention to London, however it seems to be concentrated in particular areas only. Vendors have garnered much of the tourist attention while local shops and retailers have seen a drop off. Only after the final medal count and when the flames of the Olympic torch are extinguished will we see whether hosting the Olympic games was a major win or loss for London.