The British Hospitality Association (BHA) is urging London Mayor Boris Johnson to take part in a PR campaign to help drive more people into London’s restaurants, shops, and theatres following reports that the West End has been like a ghost town since the start of the Olympics.
Yesterday, restaurateurs in the West End and the City reported a drop in trade by as much as 70 per cent during the first weekend of the Games as diners and workers without Olympics tickets stayed out of the capital fearing travel chaos.
BHA chief executive Ufi Ibrahim was among representatives of the hospitality and leisure sector who attended an emergency meeting with officials from the Mayor’s office, and London & Partners yesterday to discuss ways of bringing visitors back into the city during and after the Olympic Games period.
Decline in trade
Ibrahim said the Olympics were becoming a hindrance rather than a help to the hospitality sector. The association's own research had shown that sales in London's restaurants had started falling a week ago and had continued this week while hotels were concerned about a fall in occupancy during the last two weeks of August and the Paralympics.
“The Games, have, in fact, totally disrupted normal booking patterns and there is now doubt whether hotel occupancy during August this year will even match that of a normal August.
“There is very little corporate demand and demand by leisure travellers to London, outside the Olympic Games, is very weak. It is apparent that visitors to the Games are not acting like normal tourists, where visiting restaurants, attractions and shopping is a typical activity.”
Following the meeting, the authorities agreed to release some Olympic Lanes for normal traffic and for Transport for London (TfL) to change its ‘avoid’ messages about travelling into the capital.
The BHA told its members it was pressing authorities for a number of steps to help turn things round before meeting again with them the following week to assess the situation. Requests include:
- Removing the Congestion Charge for the remainder of the Games period
- Withdrawing weekend parking restrictions in affected boroughs both during and post the Olympics
- Introducing free weekend on-street parking on the weekends of the 18 and 25 August.
- Encouraging the Olympic family and visitors to visit London's attractions, particularly those in Central London.
- Encouraging the Mayor to take part in a PR campaign to visit a key London attraction, hotel and restaurant in Central London
Earlier today in a statement to say Westfield Stratford City would be closed to those without Olympic tickets during the event’s final weekend, London’s Transport Commissioner, Peter Hendy urged people to visit all of London.
“Westfield Stratford City may not be open to shoppers without a ticket during these times but London has a rich and vast array of other attractions to offer during the Games, so I encourage everyone to enjoy the theatres, restaurants, shops, free concerts, Live Sites and attractions and to continue to use GetAheadoftheGames.com to plan your journeys," he said.