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A Glimmer of Hope for Britain's Tourism Industry?

July 20, 2009 By: Jena Tesse Fox

There was some bright news today for Britons and visitors to the UK today: The terror threat was lowered to levels not seen since the terrorist bombings of 2005, indicating a renewed sense of safety and security in Britain.

It’s welcome news, and not a moment too soon: London is gearing up for the 2012 Olympics, and will have all the eyes of the world upon it in just a few years. (Perhaps not coincidentally, the attacks that elevated the terror threat level occurred mere days after London was chosen as the Olympic host city.)

With luck, this lowered threat level will encourage more people to travel across the pond. Britain’s beleaguered tourism industry could certainly use the boost after a rough news week: Both inbound and outbound tourism numbers have plummeted (as they have for airlines throughout Europe Lufthansa AG, Europe's biggest airline, posted a 6.6 percent drop in passenger numbers from a year ago). A proposed tax increase on air passengers leaving the UK was met with an angry response from Virgin Atlantic, claiming that the tax would not only keep people from coming to the UK, but would keep them from visiting other nations that depend on tourism. Meanwhile, Britain's flag carrier British Airways, which has also been struggling with the loss of passengers, got a multi-million bailout from the trustees of its pension fund, but is still struggling to raise the funds it needs to stay airborne.

But perhaps most promising of all is the news that the largest hotel to open in London in a generation is still in the works. When the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge opens, it may well attract a whole new generation of luxury travelers to the UK, and by 2012, it could be the hot place to stay for the Olympics.

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