ONE of the wettest summers on record and the Olympic Games have been blamed for a dramatic decline in tourism in Oxfordshire.
Between May and August this year, the Oxford Visitor Information Centre recorded 150,904 visitors, compared to 263,515 in 2011.
That represents a drop of 43 per cent, which local business and attractions say has had a significant effect on trade.
The fall in tourists became progressively worse as the summer wore on, with a 30 per cent drop on May followed by 31 per cent in June, 51 per cent in July and 47 per cent in August.
The number of people visiting the Oxford Visitor Information Centre in August fell from 83,015 in 2011 to 43,694 this year, and in July was down from 84,300 in 2011 to 41,160 this year.
Visitor numbers in June dropped from 50,800 to 34,550 and in May from 45,400 in 2011 to 31,500 in 2012.
Experience Oxfordshire director Susi Golding said: “The numbers are down on last year, which is a mix of the weather and the Olympics. We just haven’t had the weather and when we have, people were busy watching the Olympics.”
The Met Office said this summer was the wettest for 100 years and the second wettest since records began.
Oxford Castle also attracted a fewer visitors than expected during July and August.
Mike Speight, general manager of Oxford Castle Unlocked, said: “The summer months were a struggle.
“The decrease may have been due to the Olympic Games, poor weather or forecasted weather. Overall we are still up on the year, but in July and August, we were down approximately 15 per cent.”
Traders who depend on visitors to Oxford have also been feeling the pinch. Poorna Kota, manager of East to West, a clothing and textile shop in the Covered Market, said: “Our sales are down by about 30 per cent on last year.”
Mairi Soutter, deputy manager at the Four Pillars Hotel in Sandford-on-Thames, said: “The weather had a big impact on us and people were either at home watching the Olympics or visiting London.
“Business was especially bad over the two week period of the Olympics but it is picking up now and September is looking good for us.”
Rob Atkinson, from the Falcon B&B in Abingdon Road, Oxford, said: “August is a notoriously difficult month anyway. Oxford thrives on the universities and schools, all of which close over the summer.”
It wasn’t all bad news for the city. Jeremy Mogford, owner of the Old Bank and Old Parsonage Hotels said: “Despite a bleak outlook, we were actually substantially up this August on last August, though I’m sure that wasn’t due to the Olympics and I know a lot of fellow hotel owners who did very poorly, especially in London.”
Blenheim Palace said visitors increased from 214,340 last year during June and August to 246,357 this year.
Marketing manager Hannah Payne said: “The profile of our visitors has changed. We have had less overseas visitors and group bookings as they are avoiding the UK this year.”
But she added: “What we will be seeing is a big swell in numbers in 2014 and 2015 because the Olympics has been a great advert.”