Riots leave tourism “unaffected”

Cancellations negligible at less than 0.2%


London Photo credit: Jessica Baker

Throughout the world, August is a low news month. The images of disruption in England have spread around the world causing alarm in many origin markets for Britain. But this has not  resulted in any significant drop in immediate visitor numbers.

European Tour Operators Association (ETOA) members had over 38,000 people staying in hotels in London on Wednesday the 10th of August. By lunchtime today (11th August) they had received 330 cancellations for the forthcoming week. On the basis that these people would have stayed two nights, this represents 660 missing bed-nights throughout the week or barely 95 cancellations per night. Notwithstanding a couple of student groups choosing to defer their arrival, a cancellation rate of 0.17% is below the threshold of background cancellation. People cancel for a myriad of reasons; the disturbances have, for now, proved  as significant a factor as having a sick dog or flooding the bathroom.

Why is this the case? Firstly, distressing though the scenes are, the coverage has been of comparatively anonymous locations. No major landmarks and no significant numbers of tourists have been caught up in the trouble. Secondly, such riots occur nearly everywhere. Paris, Madrid, Athens, Los Angeles, Moscow and Bangkok have all experienced rioting and looting. The significance lies in how a country is seen to deal with it. To the fury of many in Britain, the images have been of the Police trying to contain the trouble. They have not violently confronted it. Images of property being damaged is very different from those of people being hurt. So the story of the last few nights, played out on television sets throughout the world, has been of an unarmed police establishing order. The story of the next few nights will be of the due process of law bringing suspects to account.

Some of the individual cancellations are now rebooking. London remains safe for tourists. And tourists understand that London remains safe.

According The Daily Mail, even the Malaysian student Ashraf Haziq who was attacked and robbed said, with great magnanimity, “Britain is great”.