LONDON is recovering from the recession and beginning to rebuild its economy, ready to do battle with other world cities to increase its number of visitors.
Tourism is the city's third biggest business. Visitor spend for 1995 was an estimated £6.9b. Recent initiatives focus not just on attracting more visitors to the capital, but also on drawing them to less developed parts by, for example, providing them with transport links and encouraging investment.
The most recent project being undertaken is called London Focus. Set up by the London Tourist Board (LTB), the Department of National Heritage and the BTA, its aim is to reposition London in the international market-place.
"The idea is to rebrand the city, with a new logo and identity, along the lines of a similar initiative in New York. It is a long-term project and we have commitment from over 70 companies to use the new marque," says Rebecca Milton, a spokeswoman for the London Focus project.
The campaign's main objective is to increase the volume of visitors to London and the amount of money they spend.
Between 1985 and 1994, tourism spend in Britain grew on average by 8.7% per annum. In London it grew only 5.6%. The aim of London Focus is to bring London figures into line with those of the rest of the country.
A further ambition is to co-ordinate all tourism marketing activities, from hotels to visitor attractions, so the city is marketed coherently.
A second project that has been in progress over the past year focuses on the whole of London and its problems.
The London Pride Partnership has five main priorities: business growth; raising skills; improving transport; housing; and environmental quality.
The project grew out of an invitation from environment secretary John Gummer for London businesses to come up with a plan of how they would like to see the city develop over the next 10-15 years.
It is a partnership of business promotion organisation London First and eight other bodies including the CBI and Westminster City Council.
The London Pride prospectus contains a 25-point action plan which includes plans to gain Millennium Commission and National Lottery funds for projects, increase jobs and income from tourism, boost inward investment and promote the importance of the arts.
Many programmes are focusing on underdeveloped parts of the city so they too can attract tourism and investment. Toureast London is one such initiative, which began in March 1995 with the aim of raising the profile of east London. The scheme will run for five years. Some of its other objectives include:
lStrengthening local tourism infrastructure.
lImproving and enhancing tourism facilities so the region attracts more visitors - this will include improving signs and public transport as well as tourist information services.
lEnhancing employment and training opportunities for local people in the tourism sector.
lEncouraging sustainable economic growth.
lEncouraging more investment in east London in catering, hotels and attractions. This will include investment in facilities for disabled people.
The scheme is a partnership that includes five London boroughs, the LTB, London Docklands Development Corporation, the Tower Thistle Hotel, Training and Enterprise Councils and other private sector companies.
Toureast London has already produced a London Docklands map of attractions, and pinpoints places of interest in the area.
Training programmes such as Welcome Host - a course designed to teach people how to make the visitor feel welcome - have also been set up at local businesses.
Funding worth £350,000 from the Single Regeneration Budget Challenge Fund 1996 has been provided by four Government departments, including transport and environment. A further £250,000 will come from the private sector and local authorities.
London businesses, the LTB and other tourism bodies are all working towards making the city a more appealing place to visit. Plans for new attractions as well as the refurbishment of longer-standing ones can only help to achieve this goal. n
As Caterer went to press, it was awaiting a decision as to whether Greenwich had been chosen for the site of the country's Millennium Exhibition centre. If it beats its competitor, Birmingham, the south-east London borough will enjoy an estimated £100m investment from a mix of Millennium Commission funds and private sector sources.