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Hopes that London’s hospitality and tourism industry had not been affected by the July 7 bombs have been dashed by new data that show a fall in hotel bookings since the attacks.
Occupancy in London’s upmarket hotels fell by as much as 6 per cent between July 11 and July 14 compared with the same week in 2004, according to The Bench, which monitors the performance of hotels.
However, the fall in weekend hotel occupancy was more pronounced, suggesting holidaymakers and leisure travellers were more keen to cancel their trips than business travellers.
Figures for the weekend commencing Friday July 15 show hotel occupancy across London down by as much as 12 per cent on the same weekend the previous year.
“The figures show that while hotels have been maintaining a similar rate to last year there is concern that hotels will begin to discount to replace the loss in leisure demand,” said Jonathan Worsley, managing director of International Hospitality Services.
VisitBritain, the tourism body that promotes the capital overseas, said it expected a “short-term drop” in visits from international tourists but was forecasting a “quick recovery” by the end of the year. Visit London, which is funded by the Greater London authority, said there had been a “sharp decline” in visits to London’s attractions in the days immediately after the attacks but added it was now “seeing a recovery”.
In the aftermath of the attacks in the US on September 11 2001, hotel owners were forced to cut prices to attract guests, which had a crippling effect on the industry. London hotel operators have been advised to avoid that tactic.
“If people are genuinely concerned about coming to London, it is unlikely that lower prices alone will persuade them,” said James Chappell, chief executive of The Bench. “Providing there is no recurrence of these tragic events, people’s confidence will gradually be restored, helped by the underlying demand for tourism to London.”
Tourism chiefs are planning a “business as usual” public relations offensive in international markets to correct the impression that some of London’s visitor attractions are shut and disruption from the bomb attacks is restricting freedom of movement around the capital.