Only Britons obsessed with weather

LONDON Wed Jul 18, 2012 11:10am EDT

Shoppers hold umbrellas as they walk under London Olympic 2012 banners in Oxford Street in central London July 18, 2012. REUTERS/Toby Melville

Shoppers hold umbrellas as they walk under London Olympic 2012 banners in Oxford Street in central London July 18, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Toby Melville

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's tourism chief said recent wet weather would not deter visitors from other countries and would not dampen its hopes of benefiting from the London Olympics.

The public body VisitBritain wants to use the Games to showcase the country, enticing an extra 4.6 million visitors between 2011 and 2015.

The country has been enduring floods during record summer rainfall, and sports fans have been warned they may need their rubber "Wellington" boots to visit some Olympic venues.

"It's only the Brits that have a complete and utter obsession really with our weather, I think the rest of the world is slightly less interested," VisitBritain's Chief Executive Sandie Dawe told reporters to quiet murmuring of dissent in the international audience.

"Frankly, people don't come here to lie on the beach, that's not our offer, they come for culture, heritage and sightseeing. They come all times of year - we have a temperate climate."

Canadians come in the winter because it is warmer for them to do their shopping and visit the museums, while people in the Middle East come in the summer when the "green is balm to their eyes," she said.

Conversations about the weather is as popular among Britons as queuing.

"It is a topic that is deployed nationwide as an ice-breaker," Jo Bryant an etiquette adviser and editor at Debrett's, the UK authority on etiquette and modern manners, said in a column for Reuters earlier this week.

"When two strangers meet, in a queue for example, it is virtually de rigueur to enjoy a short conversation about the weather."

Britain has beamed images of Britain's tourist attractions on landmark venues around the world as part of a "GREAT" marketing campaign, ahead of the Olympics, which start on July 27.

The 39-million pound campaign hopes to maximise the economic potential of the Games, giving a lift to a moribund economy.

VisitBritain hopes to increase visitor spend by an extra 2.3 billion pounds in the four years after the Games.

The annual value of the tourism industry to the British economy is 115 billion pounds.

Weather forecasters are predicting some respite from the rain soon.

"Anyway, the sun's going to come out," Dawe added.

"Have you looked at the long-range weather forecast, it will."

An estimated 90 million people will see the adverts in 14 cities, while four billion people are expected to tune in to watch the Games on their televisions. (Reporting by Avril Ormsby, editing by Paul Casciato)