Impact of the Riots on UK Tourism

The riots in England are not expected to have a long term effect on inbound tourism in the UK as a whole. Its effects on the London Olympics and Paralympics Games in 2012 are also expected to be minimal.

Several major factors have been taken into consideration to support this:

  • The riots in UK lasted five days
  • The majority of the looting and damage was to retail and personal property
  • The riots were generally confined to less affluent areas within the UK that are not tourist hot spots
  • No major tourist attraction was targeted and neither were tourists.
  • National newspapers reported five deaths due to the riots.

Trade sources such as the European Tour Operators Association (EOTA) reported 330 cancellations for the forthcoming weeks after the riots. This figure represents just 0.2% of all UK bookings. Cancellation on such a small scale is not considered significant in the tourism industry. It is too early to see how the riots will impact airlines or hotels, but many key players in the market such as IHG, Expedia, VisitBritain and EOTA have indicated that the nature of the riots is not expected to have a long term effect of travel to the UK. VisitBritain has, however, had to remove its advertising campaign called “You’re Invited”, as seen as inappropriate during the riots.

The latest statistics released by VisitBritain show that the number of visitor arrivals to the UK for June 2011 was 2.89 million and increased by 9% compared to the same period in 2010. Favourable exchange rates continue to be a positive factor for the UK and the riots are expected to have minimal damage on tourism in the UK. The fact also remains that no tourist attractions have been involved in the areas and the places that tourists tend to visit have been relatively safe.

Several countries such as the US, Germany and France issued warnings to their citizens to be vigilant during the riots and make sure that they are fully insured when travelling to the UK, however, there were no travel bans put in place.

The quick response of the UK government to address the issue has further strengthened the view that the riots in the UK are not expected to have a long term effect on tourism flows. The ability of the government to curb the riots and ensure that it did not extend to longer periods of time is in its favour. The government has also given additional powers to courts and have had them functioning overnight, giving out strong sentences, in some cases. The image that is now spreading throughout the world is the effectiveness with which the government has performed during such a situation.

The riots have, however, tarnished the image of the country on an international destination branding level and undone some of the work various tourism boards in the UK have done in conjunction with the Royal Wedding to improve the image of UK to the world. A situation such as the riots is also not good with less than one year to go to the Olympics. This also provides a wake-up call to the government on the kind of security threat that they should anticipate and will hopefully help them prepare better.