THE Dorset Echo has completed a thorough investigation to find out what the Olympics did for Weymouth and Portland.
We’ve carried out comprehensive interviews with those who oversaw the Games in the borough and we’ve made some probing Freedom of Information requests.
In the aftermath of the world coming to Weymouth and Portland we have asked what kind of a legacy the Games has left for our locals.
Today, on Day Three of our series of Olympic features, Emma Walker takes a closer look at the impact on tourism and the local economy.
VISITOR numbers to the Olympic sailing events in Weymouth and Portland failed to meet expectations following years of building up to the 2012 Games, an Echo investigation has found.
Organisers predicted that 30,000 extra visitors a day would pour into the borough across the two weeks of the Games on top of the 30,000 normal daily summer visitors.
A total of 840,000 visitors were expected, but according to Weymouth and Portland Borough Council, which calculated crowd numbers using CCTV and other assessments, 500,000 people visited during the Games – a shortfall of 340,000.
Although 100,000 people flocked to the borough across ‘Ben Ainslie weekend’ on August 4 and 5, this figure still did not meet expectations.
Numbers fell short of those expected by hoteliers and traders who expected the Games to boost the local economy.
They said ‘negative advertising’ encouraged tourists to avoid the borough due to fears of travel congestion.
Traders voiced their concerns days into the Olympics and a campaign was launched to encourage tourism.
But despite this, just days into the Olympic sailing, daily visitor expectancy was halved to 30,000 as footfall failed to meet expectations.
Organisers claim the borough suffered from a national decline in visitor numbers.
Dorset County Council, which has responsibility for transport issues, said the advertising was based on predictions from outside experts for Locog about visitor numbers.
County council leader and transport spokesman Angus Campbell said: “If people had come to Weymouth and been miserable because of the traffic, what would that have said for the tourism industry?
“I think it was done exactly right really and in sequence and I think we reacted very quickly.”
Simon Williams, head of 2012 operations, admitted footfall had been ‘below expectations’ early on in the Games.
But he argued that the borough was not the only place to suffer.
He said: “During the first few days of the Games the number of total visitors was below expectations.
“This also occurred in London.
“Once the Games got under way, visitor numbers across all Olympic venues picked up.”
A Visit England survey revealed the Olympic summer followed an ongoing downward trend for visitor numbers across the UK.
Organisers blamed bad weather, continued recession and cheap holidays abroad.
Figures revealed by Weymouth Tourist Information Centre (TIC) show that the Games period attracted an extra 8,000 visitors to the complex compared to the same time the year before – rising from 16,641 to 23,320.
The council claims the area benefited from the Games.
An estimated 3,000 people watched the Olympic torch arrive on Weymouth beach.
Mr Williams said: “Had it not been for the arrival of the torch, the town would have been deserted that evening.”
He added: “From reports in the media, comments on social media websites and direct feedback, the vast majority of people who experienced the Games had an overwhelmingly fantastic experience.
“This is vital in helping to attract visitors to come back again.”
VISITORS put just £23.24 each into the borough’s economy during the Games, the Weymouth and Portland visitor survey revealed.
The entertainment sector suffered the biggest let-down, with the average visitor spending just £1.22 while only £1.58 was spent per person at visitor attractions.
According to the survey, most money was spent by visitors on food and petrol.
It also revealed that more than half of visitors were on a day trip.
Visitors who came to the borough for the Games spent 20 per cent less than other people.
Anna-Maria Geare, chairman of Weymouth and Portland Chamber of Commerce, pointed out that the visitor survey was mainly based on daytime economy.
She said: “We know that the night time and evening economy benefited greatly from the Olympics.”