Do Grands Prix really attract tourism?

The European Tour Operators Association, the pan-European trade association for tourism companies in Europe, has just issued a report examining the effect of the likely effect of the Olympic Games on London's tourist trade in 2012, using data from previous Olympic competitions. The conclusion is that London will suffer a decline in visitors in the long-term.

"There is no strong link between hosting sporting events and increased tourism," the report concludes. "One feature of sports events, of any large event, is that it attracts people who would not normally come to a city. During the Olympic period, the entire bed-stock of a destination is devoted to the travelling officials, the press and spectators. These visitors are unlike regular tourists, having different spending and behaviour patterns. They are not interested in tourism, they are interested in sport. So their behaviour is akin to business visitors attending a convention. Not only do they behave differently to normal tourists, Olympic visitors effectively scare other visitors away. Regular tourists assume that congestion and increased prices are a feature of mega-events. In the hotels used by the press and the thousands of Olympic officials, occupancy levels go up considerably during the Olympic period, as do the average room rates at those hotels."

According to the report tourism has been hit at four of the past five Olympics - in Sydney 2000, Atlanta 1996, Barcelona 1992 and Seoul 1988. Statistics for the Athens games are not yet available.

There is no question that a Grand Prix brings in money each year thanks to the teams, the press and spectators and this helps the local economies in the areas where the races are held (which is why some governments are willing to pay to get races) but it would be interesting to see if F1 really does attract new tourists.

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