What impacts will hosting the Olympics have on long-term tourism and job creation?

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As the afterglow of the 2012 London Olympics begins to fade, the UK capital is hoping to take advantage of the recent exposure to radically boost tourism.  Despite rumours that the Olympics turned people off from the idea of visiting London, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt claims the long-term tourism trends will be much more telling than the last two weeks.  He understands that overcrowding during the Games is off-putting to potential tourists, but says it is something every Olympic host city must deal with.  However, he hopes that these Games painted London in a positive light and will encourage future tourism to the capital, inevitable resulting in increased spending and job creation in the UK.

Mr. Hunt cites the opening and closing ceremonies as portraying London as “one of the most desirable places to visit on the planet”, which could be solely responsible for inspiring as many as 4.5 million tourists to visit London in the coming years.  Mr. Hunt’s focus is on investing significant money in marketing in China, which could bring more than £500 million into the UK and create more than 14,000 jobs.  Overall, tourism industry experts estimate the Olympics could generate more than £2 billion and 60,000 jobs in the course of the next few years.

The government is also planning to simplify and accelerate the visa application process to make travel to the UK more attractive.  Currently, the Schengen visa system, which allows tourists to travel to various European countries with one visa, does not include the UK.

Even before the full effects of tourism can be felt, the UK is boasting its lowest unemployment rates in almost a year.  Part of this improvement is expected due to the massive number of people needed to prepare for and execute hosting the Olympics, but it may also be a sign that the UK is trending out of its current recession.  Some economists estimate UK employment has increased by more than 400,000 since last summer, an indication that the Olympics played a much larger role in creating jobs.  The employment numbers over the next few months will be critical in this assessment as any temporary Olympic employees will either find work or bring the unemployment rates back up to its previous 2012 levels.

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