London’s West End may lose £10bn a year as visitors stay away


London’s West End faces losing £10billion a year and 50,000 jobs because visitors are staying away from the city hotspot.

Strict quarantine rules combined with the fears of infection in the UK have seen overseas travellers drop out from coming to the capital.

And office staff refusing to go back to work have also seen shops and hospitality plummet to dangerous levels.

Nickie Aiken, Tory MP for Cities of London and Westminster, said as many as 50,000 people in the capital’s retail sector faced losing their jobs due to the lack of visitors.

She said the loss of international visitors had majorly impacted London’s economy.

Ms Aitken said: ‘Almost half of the £10 billion annual spend in the West End is from overseas travellers and then the lack of office workers who have not been back at their desks since March, that has a huge effect on the overall turnover of West End shops and hospitality.

‘Between about 70-80% – you’re basically looking at about 50,000 job losses retail job losses in West End retail alone.’

Bustling West End scenes last night

What a difference a day makes: The packed streets of Monday were left abandoned in just 24 hours in the West End

Ms Aiken told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: a ‘huge fall off in confidence’ regarding the perceived safety of public transport was partly behind the drop in shoppers.

She added: ‘We’ve got to get that back, we’ve got to get businesses, the Mayor of London and Government to work together to provide that confidence to get people back in.’

The doomsday-style predictions came as Edinburgh said it had seen a two million slump in visitor numbers in August.

Hospitality chiefs said the absence of 25,000 performers and the demise of ‘the after-work pint’ contributed to the fall.

Staying away: Many took part in the Eat Out to Help Out scheme (left) but by today (right) the same places were very quiet

The number of people on the streets of the Scottish capital was down to 700,000 in August compared to 2.7million in the same month last year.

The Edinburgh Hotels Association said the average occupancy was down to just 50 per cent in August – at a time when they would normally be almost full.

The average price of a hotel room was just £76 – down 52 per cent on the same period in 2019 – as prices were slashed to try to drum up business.

Association chiefs described the situation as ‘much worse than expected’.

Some roads had been shut for the weekend they were so busy but by today may of them were completely empty

City centre leaders said the many businesses are now in ‘survival mode’ following the ‘double whammy’ of the festivals cancellation and the lack of office workers.

Among the sectors hardest hit in the London economy have been the tourism industry and the arts.

London’s visitors make up 53 per cent of all inbound visitors to the UK, but travel restrictions combined with high Coronavirus cases have made it an unattractive option for travellers.  

Visit Britain had predicted pre-pandemic that people from abroad using the UK tourism industry would bring in £30.3billion.

Even popular fast food giants were shunned by London visitors and tourists, despite the capital's sunny weather

Even popular fast food giants were shunned by London visitors and tourists, despite the capital’s sunny weather

Only two diners could be seen at McDonald's restaurant in the West End on the day workers were urged to go back to work

Only two diners could be seen at McDonald’s restaurant in the West End on the day workers were urged to go back to work

The Eat Out to Help Out scheme saw millions return to dining out as restaurants but they were in short supply today

The Eat Out to Help Out scheme saw millions return to dining out as restaurants but they were in short supply today

But when the pandemic hit it downgraded its total to £10.6billion. 

The New West End Company has also said that the number of people visiting the area increased when non-essential retail stores reopened on June 15, but was still half of what was expected.

Experts in the group, which acts for 600 retailers and landlords in Oxford Street, Bond Street, Regent Street and Mayfair, believe there will be a £5billion drop in retail sales.

The new figures have emerged as organisers of the Edinburgh International Festival predicted they may have to rely on local audiences in 2021.

Director Fergus Linehan said: ‘I don’t think it’s going to be a question of turning a tap on or off.

‘It’s going to be a gradual journey back.’

Edinburgh has reported a shortfall of some two million visitors during lockdown

Edinburgh has reported a shortfall of some two million visitors during lockdown

Businesses have said the cancellation of the world-famous festival had hit Edinburgh hard

Businesses have said the cancellation of the world-famous festival had hit Edinburgh hard

Roddy Smith, chief executive of Essential Edinburgh, the business group which monitors city centre footfall, said: ‘August and December are always the busiest months so it is not surprising the numbers are so heavily down considering the lack of festival activity as well as the significantly reduced number of tourists and office workers in the city centre.

‘The majority of retailers and hospitality businesses are in purely survival mode and need the support of residents, workers and tourists.

‘Although there are signs of recovery, it is going to be many months before the city returns to normal operations.’

Garry Clark, development manager at the Federation of Small Businesses, said: ‘City centre businesses have reported that the double whammy of the festivals cancellation and the lack of office workers has had a material impact, with trade at a fraction of normal levels for August.

‘By contrast, there are more encouraging signs reported by businesses in suburban areas, where increased home working seems to be having a more positive effect.’

Hotels association spokesman Russell Imrie said: ‘The very large drop in average rate at which each room was sold was much worse than expected and was a symptomatic of the large number of hotels trying to attract substantially reduced numbers of visitors.’

Louise Maclean, sales and marketing director at the Signature Pub Group, said: ‘The city centre venues miss the office workers dreadfully and the lunch time trade is particularly poor.

‘The demise of the after-work pint and grabbing a bite in a bar spontaneously has, for the moment gone, and we would love that back – that will demonstrate progress in the fight against coronavirus and also bring greater positivity for the trade.

‘Spontaneous hospitality in general appears to be a long way off and whilst we understand the reasons why and wholly support the measures to keep everyone safe, we do miss those days.’

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