May 19 2013 Latest news:
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
There are fears central London has been turned into a “ghost town” by the Olympics, with businesses and visitor attractions suffering.
Visitors are said to be flocking to Olympic venues but avoiding traditional tourist spots in the centre.
Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, said: “Anecdotally our business is down by about 20 to 40 per cent depending on the time of day. Normally about 90 per cent of our customers are Londoners but they’ve all left the city and haven’t been replaced by tourists.
“I don’t know where all these tourists are or how they’re getting about, but London is like a ghost town.”
A London Chamber of Commerce spokeswoman said too many people had heeded warnings about transport being disrupted and overcrowded during the Games.
She said: “It’s understandable that some people are staying out of the city at the moment. TfL and Locog did a good job of making people aware - maybe too good a job.”
However, she stressed it was too early to assess the impact of the Games on business, as the picture would only emerge when it has finished, and added it was a traditionally quiet time of year for many.
But about 10 per cent fewer people visited the West End and seven per cent fewer visited the East End last Friday and Saturday compared with the same weekend last year, according to Experian Footfall.
Tom Jenkins, chief executive of the European Tour Operators Association, said: “London has approximately 300,000 foreign and 800,000 domestic visitors every day in August. These people have been told implicitly that they should stay away and they have done so.
“The numbers are currently dramatically down on last year. How far down will be determined by how long Transport for London maintains the ‘don’t come into London’ campaign.
“But they have been replaced by approximately 500,000 Games ticket holders, many of whom are Londoners, all of whom are here because they’ve come to watch sport.
“They are not necessarily interested in London as a tourist destination. They are not here to shop, sightsee or dine out.”
Bernard Donoghue, chief executive of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, which represents venues ranging from London Zoo to St Paul’s Cathedral, said visitor numbers were down by between 30 per cent and 35 per cent.
He added: “There are two groups of people missing. The first are general visitors to London, who are staying clear because of the perception that London will be busy.
“The second are Londoners and Brits who have been warned there will be a transport nightmare.
“Our message to them is that while it may be sensible to avoid certain peak times and locations, transport is running very smoothly.
“Ironically there has never been a better time to visit our attractions because the queues are shorter and opening times have been extended.”
Mark Rubinstein, president of the Society of London Theatre, which represents central London theatres, said: “Normally tourists will visit central London but they are mostly here to see the Games.
“The message about travel problems also seems to have kept people away. My experience is things are running smoothly and people should not be put off.
“There is a great opportunity to get out there to see some fantastic shows.”
Transport for London insists it never told people to stay out of London, while Mayor Boris Johnson has said the city is still very much open for business.
He said: “Things are going really well. London is open for business with world-class tourist attractions and theatres, world-renowned restaurants and world-famous shopping.
“Crime is down across London, we’ve only needed about 40 per cent of the Games Lanes so far and I’m obviously heartened that people have heeded the travel advice and have indeed got ahead of the Games.
“People are planning their journeys and managing the way they travel, and the times at which they travel. It’s meant that we’ve been able to keep the city moving well, even with an increase in passenger numbers.”