Inbound operators have cast serious doubts on the likelihood of a London 2012 Olympics tourism legacy, describing such hopes are “misguided”.

And their trade body is demanding government action to tackle issues such as visa processing times for international tourists.

UKinbound’s quarterly business barometer found that the top three inhibitors to inbound tourism business to be the Olympics (56%), the availability and cost of accommodation in the UK (54%) and the overall global economic climate (38%).

Looking to the period 6–12 months ahead, respondents overwhelmingly consider the global economic climate to be the key inhibitor to inbound tourism.

The organisation’s chief executive Mary Rance said: “If ever there was a time for the Government to tackle the key issues affecting UK inbound tourism beyond the Olympics, it is now. The industry is very concerned and the government should be too.

“If there is one thing that needs to be addressed immediately it is visa application processing times, which is impacting on potential visitor numbers to the UK. Why can’t the government learn from President Obama’s initiative to significantly decrease processing times from countries such as China from a matter of months to just a few days?”

She added: “Like the USA, the UK government must recognise that we are failing to attract tourists from China, Russia and India due to prolonged and drawn out visa processes.

“Despite wanting to come to the UK, they are travelling to France, Germany and Italy where tourist visas are easier to obtain.

“These countries are reaping the rewards whilst our government sits back believing that the Olympic legacy alone will continue to grow visitor numbers. Unfortunately, they are misguided.”

The business barometer found that for the January-April period, just over half of members (52%) said their inbound  tourism bookings/visitor numbers  were either ‘considerably’ higher or slightly higher year on year. Just over a quarter (26%) said they were either ‘considerably’ or ‘slightly’ lower, with around a fifth (22%) saying they were ‘about the same’.

But during the May–August period the outlook is significantly less optimistic.  Only about one in 20 (5%) said their inbound tourism bookings/visitor numbers were considerably higher, just under a quarter said ‘slightly higher’ (23%)  and almost a half said they were ‘slightly lower’ or ‘considerably lower’ (27% and 21% respectively).

For the post-Olympics the period of August 13–September 9, response to the statement ‘my inbound tourism bookings/visitor numbers are significantly reduced’ prompted a mixed range   of responses. More than half of operators ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly’ agreed with the statement (26% and 37% respectively).