John Weekes

John Weekes is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Britons on look-out for refuge

Photo / Supplied
Photo / Supplied

New Zealand could benefit from crowd-shy British tourists fleeing the world's biggest sports event this winter.

Millions of Britons are expected to avoid crowds, traffic congestion and blanket media coverage of the Olympic Games by heading abroad.

Otago University tourism branding expert Juergen Gnoth said New Zealand should investigate ways of attracting Olympics refugees. "There may be a way of attracting British tourists on the basis of the peace and quiet New Zealand offers," Gnoth said.

"I think a bit of research would be good, getting a feel from a sample of people who would not be interested [in the Olympics]."

Tourism New Zealand had no plans to target this market.

Popular European summer holiday spots such as Spain would likely host the biggest chunk of fleeing Britons, Pan-Pacific Tours' Matt Brady said. Even a small percentage coming to New Zealand could provide a significant economic boost - British tourists on average spent $2822 last year.

"We may see some folk who are perhaps considering coming to New Zealand but at this stage we haven't seen any noticeable blips in our forward bookings," Brady said.

Some British media reports presented a grim scenario for the Games, predicting flu outbreaks, transport logjams and terrorist threats.

The Daily Mail reported about four million Britons would flee the country in the five days before the Olympics start on July 27.

"In total, 10 million are said to be trying to miss the Olympics and everything to do with them, from the transport nonsenses to what they confidently expect will be ceaseless and hysterical television coverage," columnist Steve Doughty wrote.

Britain is New Zealand's second-biggest source of tourists after Australia. But Tourism NZ figures show visitor numbers from the UK fell last year, despite the Rugby World Cup.

john.weekes@hos.co.nz

- Herald on Sunday

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