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Blame games as traders claim business harmed by Olympics
11:30am Tuesday 31st July 2012 in News
Organisers predicted an extra 30,000 visitors a day flocking into the resort during the Sailing events – but the town has been much quieter than anticipated.
There are now claims that the predictions of congestion – with warning signs as far away as Southampton and Bristol warning motorists of delays – have scared people away.
The signs have now been changed to: ‘Weymouth 2012 games No Delays’ in a bid to get more people to come.
Park and Ride sites at Monkey’s Jump and Kingston Maurward, with a combined capacity of 5,235 have stood virtually empty at times.
Businesses away from the beach claim that people have deserted the town and hat they are struggling after a dreadful summer so far.
The Bayside Festival has slashed entry fees and the price of tickets for evening concerts in a bid to boost numbers.
But the council and traders say there is still time to turn it around and people are being encouraged to get the message out via social networks.
Margaret Turner, of Seacrest Guesthouse, said: “It has been terrible so far. About 75 per cent of my rooms are empty. I think people are staying away, not just because of the Olympics, but because of the recession.
“They need to stop telling people to stay away. The adverts saying how busy it is are not helping.”
David Harris, of the fruit stall in St Mary Street, said: “Business has been rubbish. It’s not that people aren’t visiting, because they are. But they are not spending in town.
“It is tight at the moment and people are watching the pennies. There is nothing the council can do. They have got people here, and they can’t force them to spend money.”
Jane Germon, of Queen of Hearts newsagents and gift shop, St Alban Street, said: “It has been disastrous.
“They have told people to stay away and not use their cars and that is what people are doing.
“It is too late now to improve the situation now. It is a shame because the Olympics was hyped up so much.”
Gordon Clarke, manager of Seas the Moment seafood shop near Hope Square, said: “We are not doing well at all.
“It is nothing exceptional, the Olympic Sailing has not benefited us at all.
“It is the quietest it has been in Weymouth in years at this time of year.
“The road system in place doesn't work and locals aren’t coming down because they can’t park anywhere.”
"More visitors are expected"
LOCAL Olympic organisers refused to be drawn on why their estimates of the number of visitors were so wide of the mark.
And they wouldn’t comment on the concerns raised by traders that their trade was down by around 50 per cent. They issued a statement claiming that more than 11,000 people watched the opening ceremony on Weymouth beach and Weymouth and Portland have received an unprecedented level of global media coverage.
They said: “With the Olympic medal races still to begin, more visitors are expected to arrive to enjoy a unique seaside experience.”
Dorset Olympic Board chairman Angus Campbell said: “The transport system has been working well. Transport plans do have to cover every eventuality and be flexible enough to cope with large numbers of visitors. However, we and our transport partners are responding to local concerns about visitor numbers by promoting the various options for getting to Weymouth and Portland.
“There is capacity on both the road and public transport networks, so I’d encourage people to come and enjoy the Olympic atmosphere.”
A spokesperson from the Highways Agency added: “It became clear over the weekend that traffic was running smoothly on all routes into Dorset and as a result the Highways Agency reacted quickly by changing the messaging to advise there were no delays.”