Industry gives Winter Olympics the cold shoulder
While there has been a lot of buzz about issues like terrorism and Russia?s anti-gay climate hurting attendance, operators who specialize in sports cite other deterrents.
They point to the distance, the cost, the lack of quality accommodations and negative perceptions of Russia in winter as the real challenges in selling the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Whatever the causes, the damage to travel bookings is real. According to an article in CNN Money, tour operators expect U.S. spectator attendance at the 2014 Winter Olympics to be the lowest in decades.
Another global sporting event ? the World Cup in Rio this summer ? is proving a much easier sell.
Light bookings to Sochi
Annbritt Stengele, founder of? Sports Traveler in Chicago, said that after an initial spike of interest in traveling to the Sochi games, bookings have been ?very light.?
?Once the product details came out, people started falling away. It was a combination of all the issues that have been discussed ? plus distance, price and lack of five star properties.?
Stengele is sending several groups to Sochi. Most will be taking side trips to Moscow, since all fights connect through that city.
Brrrr . . .
?I think the overall sentiment of Russia in winter has deterred travel more than anything,? said Adam Dailey, managing director of Ludus Tours in San Diego, emailing from Sochi.
?The anti-gay issues definitely didn?t help much, but I don?t think it truly altered many travel plans. The terrorism stuff has been strong, but for better or worse, it came too late for most to change their plans,? Dailey said, referring to recent attacks, including suicide bombings in December.
The U.S. travel industry fared much better with other Olympics.
The Beijing Olympics in 2008 was a strong draw in part because China is a bucket list destination for U.S. travelers, Dailey said. And the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver drew high U.S. attendees because it was ?extremely easy? logistically for U.S. travelers.
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