Positive economic and environmental effects of the London 2012 Olympics

Now that the Brazil World Cup 2014  has come to a close (finally I can get the TV remote back), talk of the Rio Olympics 2016 has already arisen.  Millions of enthusiasts from all over the world will arrive at the city to spectate sports from swimming to cycling, athletics to archery and witness the crowning of the next world champions, just like they did two years ago.  At this moment in time it is relatively unknown how the Olympics will affect Brazil in terms of the economy, environment and tourism. This week’s blog discusses how the London Olympics (that took place in what seems like last week) had a positive impact on the already busy city.

The cost of hosting the London 2012 Olympics came to a grand total of almost £9 billion. Yep, that is money that I never knew this country had. This huge figure was nearly thrice the original budget of £2.4 billion, just to make it sound even more shocking. However, it is easy for us to say that it was a waste of money, but was it? Perhaps the massive spend up was well worth it! The Olympics saw 685,000 international spectators, indicating that tourism went through the roof during the games…

For the services sector, tourist demand particularly for air travel, accommodation and public transport was extremely high. For example, the London Underground carried 60 million people at the time of the games alongside large increases in flight bookings and river transport which were also recorded. British Airways flew 3.3 million more passengers in 2012 than in 2011! This alone can easily demonstrate the effect of the global event on the everyday services of the UK and London as tourists from around the world were eager to not only experience the Olympics, but also to experience the city. As predicted and hoped, tourists did not hold back in enhancing their trip by spending their money, helping to lift us poor unfortunate souls out of the recession. Data has shown that tourists who visited for the Olympics spent double the amount of money than other visitors, suggesting that the event had a significant influence on tourist spending, and a good one. Hotels, theatres, shops and restaurants saw what was called the ‘Olympic effect’ and generally received a rise in clientele. The economy was not quite sitting pretty, but comfortably enough to call the Olympics an economic success; even now it is long over!

It seems that all venues (the main stadium, the Velodrome, the Aquatic Centre and the Copper Box) currently are, or planned to be part of the London legacy, continuing to prove the original billion pound construction project a success. The Copper Box, for example was the venue for fencing, goalball and handball during the games. There was not much hope for the box to survive post-Olympics, but he pulled through, now hosting events from heavyweight boxing to pop concerts! A process to carry on the legacy involving all of the venues will soon result of the opening of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park as the largest city park in Europe. So thankfully, London has not let it all go to waste and fingers crossed that these developments and transformations will give our economy a further lift.

Some of you may have thought at some point that the construction and hosting of the games was not only expensive, but must have certainly had a negative effect on the environment. Pollution of the atmosphere, building on natural surroundings and using non-renewable materials, surely it was the worst thing we could possibly do environmentally. Well, you are wrong! Yes, from the start the London 2012 Olympics was created to be the ‘greenest ever games’. Sustainable construction led to the site receiving certification for its recycled and sustainably sourced construction materials, with 98% of construction waste effectively reused, recycled and recovered. For major venues including the Velodrome, two thirds of all wood was sourced from managed plantations, limiting deforestation. Even the main stadium was constructed from recycled steel tubing and cables. I could go on till Christmas!

To sum up, there may be arguments against the Olympics being a success for the UK, but they cannot outweigh the benefits that London has seen thanks to the famous event. Tourism numbers rose and the economy got a facelift whilst protecting the environment. I think we did a jolly good job. Do you agree? Do you think Rio 2016 will experience a similar effect? Feel free to drop a comment. Thank you for reading!

Campaign to cut UK tourism VAT

Fact of the day: the United Kingdom currently takes 8th place on the list of most popular tourist destinations in the world…

VisitBritain confirms that overseas visitors spend on average a whopping £20 billion a year on visiting the UK and together with domestic tourism, the UK tourism industry is worth £127 billion a year and creates jobs for three million people. Impressive, right? It is evident that tourism plays a huge role in providing growth for the UK and its economy. With world famous heritage, extraordinary landmarks and a vibrant cosmopolitan culture, the UK stands strong and continues to attract domestic and international tourists annually. However, a recent high-profile campaign has brought to light some very concerning issues regarding tourism in the UK.

No doubt we have all heard of the dreaded VAT, the tax that is paid with every good that is sold so that money flows into the government. Nobody likes paying taxes of course, but at the end of the day, it is needed in order to play it’s part in the economy. On the other hand, we conducted a survey with participants from the UK and around the world and discovered that 70% said that UK accommodation is more expensive than the rest of Europe and 74% would stay longer in London if the hotels were cheaper. Also, it was revealed that 74% did not even realise the significant differences between tax in the UK and in the rest of Europe. What are the differences? Well, this is where the Cut UK Tourism VAT campaign comes in.

Take European countries like Portugal, Belgium and Holland for example. These popular tourist destinations charge a small 6% VAT on their hotels, holiday camps and tourist attractions and if I do say so myself, this is a very appealing offer to overseas visitors. On the contrary, the UK’s high VAT of 20% for all domestic and international holidaymakers brands the country as one very expensive destination. Looking at the massive difference in percentage, these other European countries are considered more affordable places to travel to and as a consequence, many UK tourists are drawn to flying abroad than to take a vacation in their own country. In addition, international tourists are being discouraged to visit Britain because of its high price and those who do visit are less inclined to spend their money, thus the UK is not benefitting from tourism exports as much as it could be. For every two overseas tourists visiting the UK, FIVE UK travellers jet off abroad thus leaving the country running a £17 billion deficit, not good!

Tourism expenditure accounts for approximately 6.1% of the UK’s total employment, calculating an estimate of 1,794,400 full time jobs in the industry (VisitBritain). This suggests that tourism employment is sensitive to what visitors are spending in the UK. To put it simply, the more tourists spend, the more jobs that are created and vice versa. The campaign is trying to communicate that reducing the UK tourism VAT will lower accommodation prices, this will encourage more tourists and more spending which will therefore lead to more job opportunities and a good boost in the economy. Makes sense doesn’t it? 

The Cut UK Tourism VAT campaign which aims to have the 20% chopped down to 5% is supported by over 500 brands such as Thorpe Park, The British Hospitality Association, and Marriott Hotels.  It even has over sixty politicians agree that this action will make the UK more competitive as a destination. London’s best-selling newspaper The Sun, backed by numerous MP’s have assisted by launching the ‘Give Us A Break’ campaign, attempting to get the convincing message through to Chancellor George Osborne who is undergoing more and more pressure to respond. The campaign leaders are passionate and determined, communicating with tourists all around the world to raise awareness and join the movement. Anybody can join up, especially through social media such as Twitter (@CutTourismVAT) with the hashtag ‘StickYourVAT’ and Facebook where the matter is always in discussion. Cutting tourism VAT will make your stay in the UK 15% cheaper.  Will you help to drive the campaign to success?

See http://www.cuttourismvat.co.uk/ for more information on what could be a breakthrough for Britain and feel free to leave us a comment telling us your views on the subject.

Celebrating the Brazil World Cup 2014 in London

The Brazil World Cup 2014 finally kicked off on the 12th June for a month of football madness and has had millions of us footie fanatic Brits rooting for our home and other teams from around the world. Even me, I may prefer to catch up on Eastenders and Coronation Street than watch a football game, but nonetheless the big old England flags are out of the attic and hanging outside my window! So, how has Brazil come to London? How has the city been celebrating this globally famous event and how can YOU celebrate with it?

It is a great time to be visiting Britain as you can really experience the World Cup fever in cities like London, as many special events bringing Brazil and London together have been occurring and are yet to take place locally. On the 12th June, the start of all things football, Trafalgar Square lit up with the colours of yellow, blue and green as the Ministry of Sport, the Ministry Culture and the Embassy of Brazil in the UK invited Londoners to come and enjoy a Brazil-liant (I admit that one was not my idea) samba party! Live DJ’s, dance lessons, drumming, capoeira and more. There was even an inflatable football pitch for the kids alongside a wide range of activities for the families; it really was the perfect day out. All this fun and games would have surely built up some appetites and so street stalls selling Brazilian’s favourite snacks and soft drinks made from tropical Amazon fruits pleased the party goers as the event went on. This all-day football fiesta really got the party started and don’t panic if you missed it, there is much more happening in the area…

Also keeping up with the World Cup enthusiasm is the Gallery Soho, London’s Boutique Event Space. For the duration of the World Cup, the famous gallery is hosting ‘Boteca Brazil’ which includes samba demonstrations, capoeira and even some cocktail and cooking classes to give you a taste of Brazilian cuisine. It is a fantastic opportunity to experience the tournament in a real Brazilian atmosphere, so pop by any day as tickets can be bought on the door as it is set to be the most exciting cultural event in London.

Even the pubs of London are making the most of the thrill! In Hoxton Square, Zigfrid von Underbelly (or Ziggy’s in the regular’s language) is not missing a second of the excitement and has set up both its floors with DJ’s and sound systems, Brazil-inspired drinks, food and cocktails and Ziggy’s has even made its own ale in celebration of the World Cup! Last but not least, there are three double sided screens and two more thrown in behind the bar so you don’t miss a goal when you order that cocktail! A perfect way to end your long working day and a great venue to watch the biggest football event on Earth.

If a party is not your way of celebrating the World Cup then have no fear, how about getting your football-fix without having to travel to Brazil (or be around Londoners trying to be Brazilian)? Visiting London’s football stadiums can help you to really appreciate the hard work that Brazil took on to host the event and to imagine the sheer pressure that the football players agree to when surrounded by thousands of spectators. Wembley Stadium, Emirates Stadium and Stamford Bridge are some of the biggest venues in sport, some holding over 90,000 seats. An experience to remember as you can take the footsteps of football legends and feel what it is like to be on the pitch with all eyes on you, rather than in the crowd with the player’s eyes on the ball.

There is something for everyone this World Cup season, so there is simply no excuse not to celebrate this spectacular occasion. From parties to pubs, stage shows to sightseeing, you can immerse yourself into the festivity whichever way you want. After all, it is only happens every four years (Hurrah for those who want their TV’s back)!

 

 

How to win Eurovision (or at least not come last)

When it comes to Eurovision, there are four types of people in the world:

  • Those who love it (me)
  • Those who hate it
  • Those who say they hate it, but secretly love it (I reckon most people)
  • Those that will watch a couple of the songs, but steer clear of the voting process… because there’s only so many country’s greetings we can sit through.

Let’s face it, whether we are passionate about music, culture and entertainment or we are just looking for a laugh, Eurovision is great for you to sit back on your Saturday night in with pizza and popcorn and watch the musical mayhem occur as over the years, the show has brought us some wonderful, weird and wonderfully weird performances.

If there is one thing the United Kingdom is good at in the contest against the rest of Europe, its coming last. And each year it is becoming less and less surprising. So what do we do about it? What is the KEY to having a winning performance Eurovision? As Eurovision’s biggest fan, I have extensive experience in obsessing over the show and may have some tips for the UK in order to save us from that dreaded ‘nil points’ (in the French accent).

First and most notably, when looking back at past winners, each song has an either brilliantly or annoyingly catchy tune. This can be a cleverly written chorus such as the 2012 winner, Loreen of Sweden who sang her powerful song ‘Euphoria’ which took votes by storm with its unavoidably catchy, but meaningful chorus. On the other end of the scale, it is possible to even have a winning chorus consisting of three words: ‘La La La’. Yes, proudly demonstrated by Massiel from Spain in 1968 the song included the note ‘La’ an impressive 138 times, which miraculously won Spain the crown.

Next is a factor that we can all admit has been creeping in through the years, and that is the singer’s appearance. Ladies’ dresses are getting tighter and men are starting to layer on the fake tan in attempt to win the pretty picture vote from Europe. Over the years it has been evident that the ‘sexiest’ country gets the votes (and don’t even get me started on Poland’s entrant this year).  However this may be slightly contradicted with the example of this year’s winner Conchita Wurst of Austria. Besides the singer’s unusual appearance, he/she took over the show in a daring sparkly fitted gold dress and low and behold, the song was a winner. This goes to show that it is always good to make an effort, which is probably why Engelbert Humper-whats-a-namey and Bonnie Tyler were remodelled with the beautiful Molly Smitten-Downes who came a respectable 17th place. Finally some improvement!

Step 3, do NOT try to be funny. There is simply no chance of humour going well for the UK in the contest and so we should stay well away from it. Take the group Scooch for example, competing in 2007 with ‘Flying the Flag’, attempting to give off a cheeky, humorous vibe that actually turned out to be far too cheesy and in some places a little … child-unfriendly, to put it nicely. Scooch accepted their spot in the hall of shame as they finished in a sad 22nd out of 24. Oh dear.

We all like a good ballad sometimes. A slow and sometimes sad song about how the singer’s partner has traded them in for someone else (probably because they are on Eurovision) and I admit some of these songs can be very moving. But my advice is to go for something upbeat, especially if your song is towards the end when everyone is getting a bit bored, their backs are starting to ache and their spirits need some lifting. So first, get some dancers and choreography that show you mean serious business. Take the 2009 winner Norway’s performance, the singer Alexander Rybak was surrounded by his three male dancers/acrobats which put on one hell of a show. The dancing was effortless and the tricks smooth as silk, I could not keep my eyes off of them somersaulting around like they do it when they get out of bed in the morning! Second, have a multi-talented singer: someone who can also dance or play an instrument etc. Not only will viewers be far more impressed by the talent, it will make the performance ten times more interesting than one person standing at a microphone faking tears and singing their break-up song while we’re waiting for the party to start.

Finally I have one last tip for Eurovision competitors and that is to have a clear theme to your song. When I mean clear, I mean to make sense and to capture the audience’s attention, WOW them with something they have never seen before. This tip may have been introduced before, however interpreted perhaps the wrong way. Examples of utter random themes include our neighbour Ireland’s 1984 entry which was a truly enthralling performance about an airport terminal, or Luxembourg’s 1980 attempt to sing about a penguin (which was portrayed by a rather unhappy looking man in a penguin suit, poor guy). My personal favourite is Turkey’s song about petrol in 1980, probably the only ballad I really enjoyed:

“Oh lovely petrol my dearest petrol it is you, you I need,

Petrol, oh lovely petrol…” You get the picture.

Not surprisingly, none of these rather strange songs took the crown. So the key here is to by all means give something different, just keep it sane.

To sum up, in order to walk away with your head held somewhat high from Eurovision, it is important to have a catchy tune, look like you’ve made an effort, avoid cheesy humour, keep it upbeat and don’t weird out your audience unless your song is a winner. Until next year my fellow Eurovision friends, let’s keep our hopes high for the UK because at the end of the day, we need a miracle.

The Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre – An adventure on stage!

“This acclaimed production has been seen by over 65 million people around the world” (Lyceum Theatre). Have you seen the Lion King at the London Lyceum Theatre? I have… three times!

I am a regular theatre-goer and a huge lover of musicals, from Wicked to Legally Blonde, you name them! But of course, each individual has a different taste in theatre shows. Which performances a person attends can depend on their interests, their career, family life or other factors; but you are guaranteed to find something for everyone in big old London with over 100 theatre venues dotted around the city.

Personally, I have a long history in performing arts and so I have always been a huge fan of every aspect of the arts: dance, drama and musical theatre. As a youngster back in school, a school trip brought us to see the newly launched production at the Lyceum Theatre, The Lion King. I was unsure about my expectations at first, mainly because apart from Cats, I had not come across an animal themed musical and had no clue as to how much the performer’s costumes will actually make them look like wild animals!

The Lyceum Theatre is truly magical. The exquisite detail of the interior absolutely blew me away and the sheer size of the auditorium was quite something. I would recommend spectators to sit up on the centre of the balcony as it was a perfect view. The following two times of seeing the show, I sat in the stalls and unfortunately had a restricted the view of some parts of the stage, however they can be cheaper seats.

What can I say? Whatever my expectations were, they were no match for this incredible performance. There are simply no words on my part than can describe this production other than SPECTACULAR. The acting, dancing and singing was of an exceptionally high standard as well as the physical setting and the costumes which were beyond impressive. The story follows the original novel closely with all of the most popular songs including ‘The Circle of Life’ and ‘Hakuna Matata’ which the audience, especially the kids, can sing along to with their favourite characters. There were many moments that made me smile, laugh, sing, clap and even well up with tears as this wonderful performance truly captivated me. So much so that I went to see the same show two more times and would happily go again!

Seeing the show again enabled me to look further into the finer details of the production, such as the costumes and how the actors use the costumes as a part of their character. A particular character, Scar (the bad lion), had a very interesting costume. For example, the actor wore a very large mask that, with a pull of a lever at the side of him, came up and down from above his head to over his face. This part of the costume was well interpreted into the actor’s movements, making him appear to be the suspicious and scheming lion he is. Moreover, animal portrayals such as giraffes, elephants, leopards and more were astonishing in their creation and the actors incorporated them cleverly into their performance.

I was left dumbfounded all three times after this fantastic production and so I most definitely recommend The Lion King to absolutely everybody. Families, couples or whoever just wants to see a top quality theatre show! If you think this is for you, visit: http://www.lyceum-theatre.co.uk/ to find out how you can book your tickets. Believe me, it is well worth it.

An educational experience at the Georgian House!

On Thursday 22nd May, seven students and two lecturers from the Edge Hotel School in Colchester, Essex embarked on a field trip to visit us here at the Georgian House. Smartly dressed with an impressive professional approach, the hospitality students were shown around on a tour of the hotel to discover our service offerings including our variety of wonderful guest rooms, our breakfast room and also the back of house areas.

Our head housekeeper Amalia and manager Betty were happy to give a profound insight into their roles at the hotel as well as the operation of the business and the challenges they undertake on a daily basis, providing the intrigued students with a thorough understanding. Partner of the Georgian House, Serena von der Heyde continued on to describe the guest experience from arrival to departure as this is an essential part of the service culture. The students asked excellent questions to further help their understanding, demonstrating impressive professionalism and a genuine passion in their subject of study. It was a pleasure to then enjoy coffee and sandwiches with the students, discussing their attraction to the dynamic industry and their ambitions for the future.

The Edge Hotel School offers students an excellent degree course in Hotel Management that is considered a fast-track route into the world of the hospitality industry with a valuable qualification. As many employers today demand a grasp of not only theoretical, but also practical experience, students run a full functioning hotel in Essex called the Wivenhoe House, offering four star luxury facilities such as beautiful guest rooms, dining and event venues. The hotel is the first in the UK of its kind, allowing undergraduates to have the fantastic opportunity to gain valuable experience alongside their degree program to become hospitality leaders of the future.

We at the Georgian House were intrigued by this and were thrilled to be invited to visit the hotel as this will be a great learning experience for us (and also a perfect excuse for a day out). We would like to thank the Edge Hotel School for choosing to visit us for their field trip and also we would like to thank the charming and polite students who showed great maturity and interest during their visit. We are very much looking forward to welcoming more students from the school and assisting them in their all-important studies.

Are you a student or teacher in hospitality, leisure or tourism? We are more than happy to lend a helping hand to broaden your knowledge of the industry. Connect with us on LinkedIn today or contact the hotel directly if a field trip to the Georgian House sounds good to you.

The Chelsea Flower Show – The Greatest Flowers of 100 years

The Chelsea Flower Show dates back to the early 1900s and has now won the title of the most popular British flower show ever, seeing all kinds of beautiful creations and new breeds of plant over the years. We’re going to take a trip back in time and take a look at the Chelsea Flower Show’s greatest ever plants as the question arises: will the rising standards be beaten this year?

In 2013, the RHS attempted to find the greatest plant of the centenary for each decade over the past 100 years (back from 1913), so you can imagine that this was a difficult task! A flower that excels in beauty, health and simply dazzles observers was searched and voted for as their proud creators known as ‘champions’ (a more impressive way of saying ‘gardeners’) waited anxiously to find out if their prestigious plant was a winner. The shortlist consisted of ten different individual flowers competing for the place, all of which had immense flower power potential and I was not at all surprised upon finding the winning choice. Here is the list of entrants:

  • 1913 – 1922: Saxifraga ‘Tumbling Waters’
  • 1923 – 1932: Pieris formosa var. forrestii
  • 1933 – 1942: Lupinus Russell hybrids
  • 1943 – 1952: Rhododendron yakushimanum
  • 1953 – 1962: Rosa Iceberg (‘Korbin’)
  • 1963 – 1972: Cornus ‘Eddie’s White Wonder’
  • 1973 – 1982: Erysimum ‘Bowles’s Mauve’
  • 1983 – 1992: Heuchera villosa ‘Palace Purple’
  • 1993 – 2002: Geranium Rozanne (‘Gerwat’)
  • 2003 – 2012: Streptocarpus ‘Harlequin Blue

I was firstly intrigued by the flower that was picked a winner a long time ago in 1920 called the Saxifraga, or better known as ‘Tumbling Waters’. The flower can be described as: rosettes of silvery foliage topped with magnificent arching spikes of frothy white flowers” and personally, I could not describe it any better. This flower looks very similar to the pink blossoms you’d find on a tree at spring; however the brilliantly white bloom of the Tumbling Waters gives a fresh and pure look to a garden almost like a waterfall, the clue is in the clever name! Unfortunately this magnificent creation did not take the winning place of Flower of the Centenary.

Out of the ten on the shortlist, it was quite hard to pick a favourite, but after some thought I chose the Rhododendron yakushimanum and I am afraid that with my best efforts, I could not find an ‘otherwise known as’… this shrub is simply 100% Japanese. Impressively, this is a tough evergreen shrub that grows with pink buds and blooms with large white bell-shaped petals, lighting up your garden. This shrub was exhibited in 1947 at the Chelsea Flower Show and has ever since been an influence on evergreen plants in gardens. Still, this pretty pink plant did not quite snatch 1st place.

A particular entrant which caught my eye was the absolutely stunning Lupinus Russell hybrids which astonished garden enthusiasts back in 1938 by the Baker’s Nursery at the Chelsea show. The sheer vibrancy of colours and the striking shape is fascinating. The tall spires of flower have pea-like buds sprouting from the stem and can grow up to 36 inches, all from one tiny seed! This marvellous breed came in close second place behind … the Geranium Rozanne!

Back in 1993 this beautiful flower was picked a top place after amazing on-lookers at the Chelsea Flower Show. According to the RHS, thousands of people voted for the Geranium Rozanne as the centenary winner. And if I say so myself, how right they were! This exceptionally delicate flower exhibits bright and rich violet-blue petals outside a white centre which stays in bloom for up to six months: divine and durable, a worthy winner!

Which fabulous flower was your winner? Which superb creations will this year’s show bring? Leave a comment!  Find out more about the Chelsea Flower show on our website at: http://www.georgianhousehotel.co.uk/london-events/chelsea-flower-show.asp

 

How we use Tripadvisor

Tripadvisor has turned my world around in just a few years – not just mine, but everyone else out there running a business in travel and leisure, and if it hasn’t hit you yet, watch out because it will!

An estimated 9.5 million travellers are posting their first hand experiences of hotels, restaurants and even airlines, and fellow travellers are reading these reviews before they book.

When we first experienced Tripadvisor feedback my reaction was “Hey, this isn’t fair! Not all the people posting reviews about our hotel have even stayed here. Of those who have stayed with us some people say some pretty extreme, unfair, and sometimes, downright unbalanced things.”

So how do you use Tripadvisor to get a real sense of a place if you are thinking of booking?

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London or New York?

For those with the time and money, a pre-Christmas shopping trip to New York is seen as a real treat. It’s almost a cliche – the romantic weekend in New York, shopping, cocktails and dinner with the snow falling outside. Like a 1940′s movie.

However, if what you have in mind is a romantic pre-Christmas shopping weekend, don’t write London off just yet. The capital has a raft of interesting and affordable places to shop and dine, and some of the most romantic spots in Europe to sit and chat. Here, we compare the two.

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Shopping For Christmas Presents in London

London is well established as one of the world’s great shopping venues. This is never more true than at Christmas, when the capital really excels. The great destinations like Oxford Street and Harrods attract millions of visitors. But what if you are looking for something a bit different?

If you are looking for a more unusual Christmas present this year, then Elizabeth Street could be for you.  In the heart of Belgravia, not far from Victoria Station, it is an incredibly pretty, semi-pedestrianised street, full of original, independent shops. Ideal Christmas present territory.

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