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Destination London: How the Olympic Games Are Affecting Travel

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With fewer than 120 days to go until the Olympic and Paralympic games, the prospect of millions of people descending on London's doorstep draws closer, making our already bustling capital the focus of the world's attention.

But where will these visitors be coming from, and how will they be travelling? We're really interested in how big events like the Games impact travel, so in conjunction with Forward Data SL, a market research and consulting company publishing ForwardKeys, at the end of February, we took a look at actual booking data currently available - covering the period from 23 July through to 12 August 2012.

Our analysis - the Amadeus guide to Olympic travel trends by ForwardKeys - of all air travel reservations (booked through online or traditional travel agencies) into London shows some really interesting results.

The data confirms that keen travellers are already gearing up for the Olympics, and that there will be a huge influx of visitors: travel to London is set to be 31% higher than in 2011, and on 26th July, the day before the opening of the Games, there is a massive spike in expected arrivals - an increase of 143% compared to the same day in 2011.

Leading the charge are travellers from the United States, who represent 17% of all scheduled arrivals. However, in-bound travellers from Germany are in hot pursuit, representing 11% of expected visitors. Perhaps surprisingly, Estonia is recording the largest increase in expected arrivals to London with a fourteen-fold increase during the time of the Games. As a general rule, long-haul bookings are generally made first, so we could see other short-haul nations making up a higher proportion of reservations as we get closer to the event.

The research demonstrates the worldwide reach of the Games as other European cities that are linked to the UK's capital by high-speed rail have registered swells in arrivals during the period of the Games. Scheduled air arrivals in Brussels over the period are up 49% compared to 2011; in Amsterdam they are up 28%; and have risen by 5% in Paris.

The figures suggest that travellers are flying into European cities and coming to London via the high-speed rail link under the English Channel. The increasing use of air and high-speed rail together is a trend being rapidly driven by improvements in technology, for example travel agents selling the two modes of transport together in one go. Amadeus has over 102 rail providers and 420 airlines within its GDS system, and we are investing a lot of time and energy discovering how travellers can search for and book travel across different modes of transport.

This is something we expect to see a lot more of as airlines and rail providers implement their plans to make the journey easier and more joined up for travellers. For example, Deutsche Bahn and Lufthansa as well as Air France and SNCF already partner so that single tickets to be purchased for all parts of an air and rail journey. This has been happening in the global air travel industry for some time, and close to 20% of the bookings we process at Amadeus are this type of booking.

The volume of inbound travel to London during the Games provides a great opportunity for the UK's travel agents to deliver advice London-specific entertainment and attractions for those visiting the UK, but also about domestic stays for UK citizens. Additionally, there are some clearly defined opportunities for those choosing to leave the country.

Research released by ABTA (the Association of British Travel Agencies) last month shows that 22% of over-65s plan to head abroad during the Games. Travel agents need to ensure they're focused on these opportunities, looking for chances to serve these specific groups of customers, and tailor services to meet travellers' needs.

As London counts down and we get closer to the Games, we'll revisit our research and these trends to see how they develop, and what Londoners can expect for their city.