Despite the tough economic outlook, the transport and travel sector is looking forward to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games next year, with 92% of organisations expecting a much needed boost to their business, according to new research published by BT.
With many travel infrastructure projects already completed or underway, the sector has had a head start in preparing for the Games, with 69% of organisations starting at least six months in advance.
However, a lack of foresight could see over a fifth of companies in the sector missing opportunities because they are failing to make basic plans such as how to deal with staff absenteeism or adapting their schedules.
The BT study surveyed 1,200 organisations of varying sizes across all sectors nationwide. It found that businesses had a generally positive outlook for the Games despite tough economic conditions.
Over half of organisations (51%) in this key sector are anticipating increased demand for their services, including increased customer numbers (38%) and increased online sales (37%).
Additionally, over two thirds (69%) are expecting greater international business opportunities both during and after London 2012.
Whilst the predicted extra million extra visitors is a major opportunity for transport and travel operators across the country, the majority (89%) do have concerns about negative knock-on effects. Issues like unpredictable dips or surges in demand, staff attendance and employee productivity are amongst the top concerns.
During the Games, maintaining high customer service levels will be critical. Despite the influx of visitors, 45% of those with call centres are not increasing their capacity for higher than normal levels of calls, whilst only just over a third (38%) are planning to provide additional multi-lingual services.
Positively, 56% of organisations plan to increase flexible working for their staff, whilst 26% plan to hire more temporary staff to ensure service continuity.
Transport and travel is one of the most experienced sectors in gearing up for significant seasonal and sporting events.
However, the uniqueness of the challenges associated with London 2012 are reflected in the fact 32% of operators believe the unpredictability of dips and surges in customer demand will be one of their key challenges.
IT and network capacity will be major pressure points for organisations in the transport sector, as organisations in some parts of the UK cope with unprecedented demand. However, 48% are not expecting and therefore planning for issues with their IT network capacity during London 2012.
A fifth of organisations in the transport and travel sector do not expect any supply chain disruption at all during the Games, despite 22% believing that investments in technology could lead to operational improvements, both in the short and longer term, suggesting they could be missing out on opportunities to future proof their business.
Such issues could be a real threat to hopes of a business boost, particularly given the results of previous BT research on the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games, which found that roughly half (49%) of the companies in and around the Canadian city felt they could have done better from the event or missed out on opportunities.
Colin Hansen, the former British Columbia Minister responsible for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games, said: “British transport and travel operators are right to be optimistic because the Olympics had a huge economic benefit in Vancouver and across Canada as a whole. But the scale of the event was much bigger than anybody expected and many companies just weren’t geared up for how big the opportunity would be.
“No-one in this sector should expect next summer to be business as usual, but with the right plans in place, they can take advantage of the occasion and seize the long-term economic benefits.”
Baroness Jo Valentine, CEO London First, said: “London 2012 will present many opportunities to boost economic recovery and a great deal of planning has gone into providing support for business of all sizes, as well as information on how to minimise disruption.
“There’s still some work to be done but I would urge businesses to talk to their suppliers and customers now so that they can be sure of being ready to make the most of this fantastic event.”
Emer Timmons, president, BT Global Services UK, said: “Despite the tough economic climate, we can tell from our own customers that London 2012 presents both challenges and opportunities for transport and travel organisations.
"But success or failure depends on how ready they are. There’s still time to get plans in place, but with less than seven months to go, we do urge all organisations to begin preparations now or miss out on the economic benefits.”
The full results of the research, plus a short overview of key findings, can be downloaded here.