The Olympic Games haven’t always been kind to host cities, leaving some in the red and saddled with hugely expensive sports arenas, such as those in Athens and Beijing, that sit empty once the frenzy of the Games are over.
On the other hand, anyone who has traveled to Barcelona before and after the Games can’t help but notice the dramatic improvements that have translated into lasting tourism gold.
Handling the challenge was one game London was determined to win.
“We learned from other destinations,” said Jo Geneen of London & Partners, the official promotion organization for London. “We spoke to people in Sydney, Athens, Beijing and Vancouver, and we made sure we had done our homework.”
Not only did the city have experience hosting huge sporting events, including Wimbledon and international soccer and rugby tournaments, but London already had a sophisticated infrastructure in place to handle transportation and accommodation challenges, she said.
It also didn’t hurt that other big events took place in London around the same time as the Olympics, including the Paralympic Games, Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and Prince William’s royal wedding in 2011.
In all, some 219 million people watched the Olympics on television, and millions tuned into the wedding and the Jubilee, creating a public relations bonanza for London.
To capitalize on that momentum, London & Partners launched a $2 million consumer campaign called “London, Now See It for Yourself” and aimed at translating those viewers into visitors, Geneen said.
Although created for consumers, the campaign, which was supported by partner Radisson Blu Edwardian, can serve as a research tool for travel agents looking to put together London-centric vacations based around new attractions, Geenen said.
One aspect of the campaign is a London guide on a microsite on visitlondon.com, presided over by an animated corgi, chosen because of the canine breed’s association with royals.
The site also offers a digital map that shows key attractions across the capital, including attractions that viewers likely saw during the Games, as well as sneak peeks into what’s new for next year.
Highlights include Up at the O2, which takes visitors on a guided walk over the great white fabric dome of the O2, one of the city’s liveliest event venues, for dizzying views of the city. Also new is the Emirates Air Line cable car that links the O2 and the Excel London conference center.
As for the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, it will reopen in phases starting in July, and Geenen predicts will be one of the top five destinations in London when it’s completed.