WORRIED hoteliers in Weymouth fear losing thousands of pounds as visitors avoid the 2012 Olympics after what has already been branded ‘the worst season ever’.
Booking diaries are startlingly empty for July and August with some guesthouse owners set to lose more than £5,000 whilst others cannot afford to pay their rent.
The departure of Condor Ferries, poor weather and a two-year roadwork blitz ahead of the Olympics are being blamed for a bad business cycle, despite promises that 2012 would be the most prosperous year yet.
Research shows nearly a third of Dorset hotels are at risk of failure in the next year.
Mark Brunt, of Brunswick Guest House in Brunswick Terrace, said: “None of the regulars are coming during the Olympics because they think it will be so busy. It’s certainly not the cash cow the organisers have been saying it will be.”
Martin Weller, owner of Channel View Guest House in Brunswick Terrace, said: “I would say 75 per cent of our regulars are not coming.
“I'm losing between £5,000 and £7,000 over the three to four Olympic weeks.
“We’ve got no bookings from Olympic visitors, either. It’s not what I was expecting, what with all the council has been saying.”
Businesses have said radio adverts telling people the area will be congested has put visitors off. A public awareness campaign called Get Ahead of the Games is being run by the Olympic Delivery Authority to warn potential visitors of the need to make travel plans early.
Mr Weller added: “The adverts on the radio are saying there will be 60,000 people and it makes visitors think twice about coming here.”
Hugh Sumner, director of transport at the Olympic Delivery Authority said: “The road and public transport network in the local area will be exceptionally busy during the Games and so, to ensure that everyone can make the most of things this summer, it’s important that both residents and visitors are advised to plan their travel at the same time as they are making their hotel bookings, not leave it to the last minute.”
Peter Penman, owner of Horizon Guest House on the seafront, said: “It's cost me about £3,000 in bookings over the Olympic period. There's been so much hype over how busy it will be and it’s put people off.”
Some have said the council needs to advertise events that will be going on away from the Games after the huge drop in custom. Loraine Godwin, owner of The Richmoor Hotel and Shelley’s Restaurant on The Esplanade, said: “I am very concerned. This time last year we were almost full.
“In the long term we will benefit here, but the question is: ‘Who else is going to make it?’ “We need to advertise Weymouth more – all people are hearing about is how crowded it is going to be when the Olympics come.”
Sue Leach, owner of Sunnyside Guest House, said: “Half the regulars who come down for the carnival aren’t coming. They say it’s going to be too busy and the traffic will be horrific. I have already lost more than £1,000 because this season has been so quiet.
“I am very concerned. I can’t afford to pay my rent.”
We must remain positive
CHAIRMAN of the Weymouth and Portland Hoteliers and Leaseholders Association, David Price, pictured right, of The Molyneux Guest House is calling for more positivity ahead of the Games.
Mr Price said although some of his regular customers are not returning, other bookings will make this year as successful as any other.
He said: “It has been the worst April we have had in six years because of the weather and the economy but we have got to stay positive.
“We look set to lose some of our regular customers and it is worrying to think they will go somewhere else and not come back.
“But we are open and ready for people to come here.
“We really need more positive promotion of Weymouth outside of the town."