| LONDON, July 27
LONDON, July 27 Defying gloomy predictions that
Londoners would leave in their droves to avoid the crowds and
disruption that accompany the Games, passenger figures show that
most people have opted to stay at home and enjoy the Olympic
Britain's two biggest airports said they had seen no
significant increase in the number of passengers flying abroad
while Eurotunnel said outward bound bookings on
Channel Tunnel trains were slower than usual this week and next.
More than 10 million people braved torrential rain and then
scorching summer temperatures to see the Olympic flame on its
8,000 mile (12,870 km) journey across the length and breadth of
the United Kingdom, according to Games organiser Locog.
Only one in 10 travellers is leaving London to avoid the
Games, according to a survey by the Association of British
Travel Agents. Seven out of 10 Londoners were even looking
forward to the Games, the survey showed.
"Numbers taking holidays at this time are fairly consistent
with past years," said ABTA spokeswoman Victoria Bacon.
"While some have chosen to forgo a summer holiday during the
Games, these have been balanced by those wanting to get away,"
That statistical and anecdotal evidence contrasts with the
doomsday predictions by some of the British media that Londoners
would flock to foreign shores to avoid the security checks,
crowds and chaos that the Olympics is likely to bring.
Jessica May, a 21-year old London-based student travelling
to Spain from Gatwick, said: "I'm not going away specifically
because of the Games though it is a happy coincidence because of
transport issues and security threats."
In a sign of just how strong the perception of an outflow
is, British Airways even tried to entice customers to stay at
home by offering cash back on holiday bookings after the Games
if Team GB heptathlete Jessica Ennis won a medal.
BA is offering to hand over 100 pounds per booking if Ennis
wins gold, 75 pounds if she earns silver and 50 pounds if she
collects a bronze medal.
BRITS IN THE OLYMPIC MOOD?
The Games have provoked an outpouring of scorn from
opponents: everyone from punters who missed out on tickets due
to a botched sale to the drivers of the iconic London black
taxis who are upset at the traffic disruption.
But Gatwick, London's second-busiest airport, which mainly
serves the package holiday market, expects July departures to
come in at 1.9 million, the average departure figure for the
past five years.
Ferrovial's BAA, the operator of London Heathrow,
refused to provide a forecast for July 2012 but said Europe's
busiest airport had not seen a significant increase in outbound
passenger numbers from London this month.
Heathrow has seen an average of 3.4 million passengers fly
out each July since 2007, according to Reuters calculations.
Almost 9 million tickets were sold for the Games.
Eurotunnel said bookings to the United Kingdom were up 30
percent from last year and that though they had seen a high
number of departures at the beginning of July, bookings for this
week and next week were slower compared to previous years.
"There's an influx of continental Europeans just before the
Games, followed by a waiting period while the Games are on. Then
there's an exodus at the end of the Games of people returning to
the Continent and those going on holiday," said John Keefe,
spokesman for the Eurotunnel group.
"What that suggests is that they delayed their holiday while
the Games were on," Keefe said.