BHA wins concessions from Boris Johnson in bid to boost visitors to central London
The British Hospitality Association (BHA) has won a series of concessions following an emergency meeting with Boris Johnson, in a bid to boost visitor numbers to central London.
The Mayor of London has agreed to release some of the Olympic Lanes for normal traffic, while National Rail and the Highway Agency will reduce the amount of the "avoid travel" messages they send out. Meanwhile, VisitBritain and partners are running a "Late Summer Deals" campaign throughout the UK and Europe.
The move comes after restaurants in central London reported a massive drop in business in the run-up to and first week of the Olympic Games, with some operators describing the West End as a "ghost town" and experiencing a decline of up to 60%.
Meanwhile, hotels, which in prime areas are operating at around 83% occupancy levels, are concerned about occupancy during the last two weeks of August and during the Paralympics, according to the BHA.
"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," the BHA said.
"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 BHA's meeting with Johnson, the mayor's office has launched the following actions:
● Some Olympic Lanes will be released for normal traffic, in line with the conclusion of Olympic activities across the city, such as Wimbledon.
● Transport for London and the National Rail & Highway Agency have had a major change in their messaging to reduce the amount of "avoid" messages.
● The BHA is pressing the authorities for removal of the Congestion Charge for the remainder of the games period.
● To encourage more people into London, the BHA has proposed that parking restrictions at the weekend should be withdrawn in the key boroughs affected - and particularly in the weekend after the Olympics, where sales projections for both restaurants and hotels across the capital are concerning.
● Westminster Council is reviewing a proposal for free weekend on-street parking on the weekends commencing 18 and 25 August.
● VisitBritain and partners are running a "Late Summer Deals" campaign throughout the UK and Europe via their visitor app and visitlondon.com.
● The BHA is pushing London & Partners and the mayor for a special campaign targeting the Olympic family and Olympic visitors (since they are already in London) to be encouraged to visit London attractions, to dine out and to shop - particularly around central London.
● The BHA is encouraging the Mayor of London to participate in a special PR campaign within the next few days to visit a key London attraction, hotel and to dine out in one of our member restaurants in central London.
● The BHA is exploring a special campaign to facilitate the visit, and to help organise a similar PR activity for Team GB and other ambassadors for dining out in London.
● BHA has requested that the Mayor of London, Head of Transport for London and perhaps Lord Coe actively communicate - through the press and broadcast media - that London is open for business, with no congestion.
By Kerstin Kühn
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