The UK could suffer from a slump in overseas visitor number as a result of the London 2012 Olympics, according to the national tourism agency VisitBritain.
An estimated 320,000 foreign spectators are expected to attend the games, but VisitBritain predicts a bigger decline in tourist numbers elsewhere due to potential holidaymakers being put off visiting the UK due to the focus on the Olympic events, and the expectation of high prices in the capital during the games.
VisitBritain has set up a panel to address the issue in a bid to keep the focus on Britain, not just London.
The announcement comes as VisitBritain launches a new report predicting a “massive percentage increase” in visitors from the ‘BRIC countries’ – Brazil, India and China – over the next three years.
Although Britain is expected to gain long-term benefits from international exposure during the London Games, many Olympic host countries, such as Sydney and Athens, have experienced “displacement” of other tourists put off by expensive hotels and flights as the contest coincides with the peak summer holiday season.
Christopher Rodrigues, chairman of VisitBritain, told The Telegraph: “To maintain visitor numbers across the year would be a quite extraordinary achievement; we are seeking to do just that but I am pragmatic enough to know it would be difficult.
“The important aspect is the longer-term benefits and the message that it is about Britain, not just London.
“London is not the only port of entry and there is no reason why, for example, Germans cannot come to Scotland during the Games.”
Mr Rodriguez said: “We have been in talks with the American network, NBC, among others, about hosting coverage outside the Olympic village to reinforce the message that the whole of the country is accessible to visitors.
The agency says it is working with hotel chains to avoid a repeat of the scenario in South Africa during the 2010 FIFA World Cup, when some hotels had to sell vacant rooms at a discount because potential visitors had been put off by initial high prices.