Britain gears up for a year of big events
GETTING to host Olympic and Paralympic Games is like hitting the tourism jackpot. It’s a golden opportunity to showcase a destination to huge global audiences, but visitors need to plan and prepare.
‘‘While the  Olympics is a brilliant drawcard for London and Britain, some travellers are concerned the [capital] city, in particular, may be too busy during the events,’’ says Visitbritain’s Sydney-based public relations executive Sarah Styles. But more than 100,000 hotel rooms are available in London and in towns and cities nearby, and Australians wanting to purchase tickets to Olympic events should contact Sydneybased Cosport (1800 668 570; cosport.com.au).
To encourage a year-long spread of visitors, nationwide events have been launched to attract a forecast 30.7 million international arrivals. Consider the fortuitous timing of the Queen’s diamond jubilee year, which is bound to buoy the country’s sense of goodwill. Exhibitions in towns and villages to mark the occasion are already adding sparkle to the carnival mood. In June, a 1000-boat jubilee pageant will take place on the River Thames as a spectacular prelude to the Games, and new long-term tourism initiatives include the 1400km Wales Coastal Path, to be inaugurated in May.
June 21 marks the start of the London 2012 Festival (with more than 1000 theatrical events) as the city prepares to welcome the 17,000 athletes competing for medal glory from July 27 to August 12.
Australians are already soaking up the party atmosphere. Kirsty Harrison of lastminute.com.au says that due to our strong dollar, there was a significant increase in hotel bookings in Britain and continental Europe during the second half of 2011. Discounted flights and packages continue to be offered and some airlines have return fares to London, on selected dates, for less than $2000.