September 17 2014, updated 9:36am

Kiwi travellers dodge pricey London Games dates

ROELAND VAN DEN BERGH
Last updated 05:00 28/05/2012

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The London Olympics has caused a huge dip in the number of New Zealanders travelling to Britain in July as hotel prices nearly double, but airfares remain unchanged.

House of Travel retail director Brent Thomas said travel bookings to Britain for July were down 10 per cent on last year, despite every other month this year being substantially up.

It was likely people had decided not to travel at the peak of the Olympics and instead were going in June or August to avoid the higher costs and crowds.

Mr Thomas said London hotel prices were higher, but elsewhere in Britain "it was very much business as usual".

That was partly due to Britain being in recession and hotels were trying to attract travellers to fill empty rooms rather than being forced to close floors of large hotels to save costs.

"Travel over there has been hit hard by Europe and also by Americans not travelling."

Airfares have not increased despite the demand, reflecting the tough economic conditions.

Business travellers were also shying away from Britain in July to avoid paying inflated hotel prices.

Andrew Dale, head of corporate travel agency APX, said there has been a surge in bookings to Britain just before and after the Olympics. "What we have seen so far is they are either going early, or they are going to postpone their trip till after the Games."

But that reduced demand had been offset by bookings from sport teams and their families, Dale said.

Accommodation was becoming difficult to come by in London during the peak of the Games, he said.

Hotel accommodation booking website Hotels.com said the average price for a London hotel room was going for $417 a night during the Olympics, up about 93 per cent compared with last year.

Hotels.com's New Zealand and Australia marketing head Katherine Birch said prices have slipped by nearly $25 a night since March and there were still good deals available during the Olympic period, particularly at the budget end.

The most popular nights for bookings were the opening ceremony on July 27 and the first day of athletics on August 3, she said.

Birch said online searches for room by New Zealanders for London accommodation over the Olympic period was about 19 per cent higher than for the Beijing event.

Dale said sales of package deals by sister agencies United Travel and Harvey World of Travel, which are the official Olympic package deal sellers, showed that the London Olympics would be better supported by New Zealand spectators than previous events, and ahead of expectations.

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People were also going to the Games and then travelling on to Europe for a longer holiday, Dale said.

For some corporate sponsors the Olympics were an opportunity to wine and dine key New Zealand customers and suppliers, Dale said.

- BusinessDay.co.nz

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