London rated ‘best ever’ host of major event

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The London Olympics was “the best” of the world’s ‘mega events’ of the last two decades, according to a senior hotel industry analyst.

Philip Wooller, Middle East area director for STR Global, said: “London was by far the best out of the events we’ve seen.”

Speaking at Arabian Travel Market in Dubai, Wooler said: “Most cities get mega events wrong from a hotel point of view.

“If all the hotels go off thinking they can double or triple rates, it causes a problem. London was the only event that did not allow market forces to take control.”

He insisted: “You have to approach big events with caution and meticulous planning, and you have to get profiteering out of the window.”

Wooller cited the 2004 Olympics in Athens as an example of what not to do, saying: “Athens had a 240% spike in room rate. It’s a city with not that many rooms and there was no control on hotels rates.”

Deloitte head of travel, hospitality and leisure in the Middle East Grant Salter said: “It’s very easy for countries to get caught up in the glamour and glitz and trying to outdo each other in creating the fanciest event.

“Too often countries don’t think about the legacy until it’s too late. One of the key reasons to host events is to develop infrastructure for residents. But quite often you find the infrastructure development does not cater to their needs.”

Salter added: “It takes time to see the benefits of events. But the way these events are sold to the public, there is an expectation that there is an immediate benefit.”

Jordi William Carnes, chief executive of the Barcelona Tourism Board, said: “Normally, the event itself is going to work. The question is when the ‘theatre’ finishes, what happens?

“We had a strategic plan for Barcelona before we got the 1992 Olympic Games. We made use of the Olympics to make things go faster. We didn’t do it because of the Olympic Games. For us, the Olympic Games was an excuse.”

Tracy Halliwell, director of major events and business tourism for London and Partners, who played a key role in preparing for London 2012, said: “There is no point going into major event unless you know why you are doing it.

“Is it because you want to build infrastructure? Is it because you want to attract certain markets? Is it to raise the destination profile? We had specific plans on each.”

She added: “It’s all about putting on a good show so people want to come after the event.Y ou don’t want people saying, ‘That was rubbish’.”

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