The Olympic torch lands in London in two weeks, but don’t expect many Massachusetts spectators to make the journey.
“I was going to go,” said Ginger Plexico, a Chatham resident with a penchant for all things British. “But it will be so crowded, so congested, that I’m not going.”
The 72-year-old has friends to stay with in London, but she’s putting her travel dollars elsewhere: “I’m going to Cambodia in October instead.”
Tickets to the opening ceremony are priced in the thousands, and many hotels are doubling room rates in late July and early August. So Plexico, like many other New Englanders, is content to watch the international sporting event on television. NBC, which will carry the Summer Olympics, expects 200 million Americans to tune in over 17 days starting July 2.
Boston-area travel companies that sell Olympics packages have not found many takers — even at the height of vacation season. Daniel Pranka, of New England Sports Tours in Saugus, has not had a single call for the world’s largest sporting event this year.
‘I haven’t had one inquiry. It’s really expensive for the events.’
“I’m not sure why. The entertainment dollar is still there,” said Pranka, who has 174 people signed up to travel to London in October to watch the New England Patriots play the St. Louis Rams at Wembley Stadium.
Jeanne Kane, owner of Games Away Tours in Wilmington, has had a similar experience. “I haven’t had one inquiry,” she said. “It’s really expensive for the events. People come from all over the world, hotel rates are up, and not everyone can afford it.”
Plus, Kane added, “You see such good coverage on TV.”
How expensive are the games?
According to CoSport, the official Olympic ticket vendor in the United States, remaining tickets range from $600 to watch the gold medal round of boxing to nearly $7,000 for a premium seat at the opening ceremonies. Some spectators, looking for deals, will try to buy tickets from resellers in London.
Adding to the expense is the exchange rate. A British pound cost $1.54 on Thursday, and Pranka estimated that a typical package — tickets to three games, airfare, plus hotel — would cost $4,000 to $7,000 per person.
For some Olympic fans, however, it would be money well spent.
A former Medford resident, John Birtles, said he didn’t think twice about paying double the cost to fly to London to see the world’s top athletes up close. He plans to watch volleyball, hockey, football, and tennis matches at Wimbledon with his wife and young daughter.
“It’s a couple of extra grand to see the biggest show on earth in your own backyard. It’s a no-brainer,” said the Tufts University graduate, who grew up in London and will be staying with relatives to defray costs.
Birtles, who doesn’t have any stateside friends who are going, suspects Americans are not as excited by the long jump and shot put as spectators in the European Union. “The Olympics in many parts of the world have a different aura,” he said. “It’s viewed as a sporting pinnacle.”
Sean Mabey, 32, a financial analyst in Boston, decided to go to the Olympics after his sister moved to London recently, which meant he had a free place to stay. He and his wife, Mary, 30, spent $1,150 each for airfare.They have yet to score game tickets, but it doesn’t matter.
“From what I’ve heard, you can still have a great time,” said Sean Mabey. “There’s all this Olympic stuff going on.”
Visit Britain, the official tourism office, expects about 600,000 international visitors in London for the games, staying an average of four or five days.
About a fifth of those visitors will be Americans, estimates Karen Clarkson, vice president for North America for Visit Britain.
Clarkson does not know how many New Englanders will be at the Olympic games, but last year 115,000 Massachusetts tourists traveled to Britain, according to the International Passenger Survey, a state-run survey of travel to the United Kingdom.
London should be a particular draw for Bay Staters — it’s a six-hour nonstop flight from Logan International Airport — but Pranka of New England Sporting Tours has found that interest in Olympic travel tapers off each quadrennial.
Pranka sold 400 trips to the 1976 Montreal Summer Olympics. In 1984, the Los Angeles summer games netted him 125 packages. The Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002 garnered four, and two locals traveled to Beijing in 2008.
“It’s a major investment, and you struggle to sell them,” Pranka said of Olympics packages.
“I still have tickets in my drawer from Montreal. It’s painful to look at those now.”