Business will gain in the long term says Minister

Having the Olympic Games in London is “the best possible gift you could ask for” if you run a tourism business, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said.

The Cabinet Minister said people needed to take a longer-term view after claims that the 2012 Games have turned the capital into a “ghost town”, with commuters and non-Olympic tourists avoiding the city.

After figures showed that footfall in the theatreland and shopping focal point of the West End was down almost 5 per cent and mayor Boris Johnson admitted that the Games were having a “patchy” effect on some businesses, Mr Hunt said the Olympics had given the city a global “cachet” that would boost long-term tourism.

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“I think we have to take a slightly longer-term view on this – if you have a business in London, particularly a tourism business – a theatre or restaurant or hotel – then having the Olympics in London is the best possible gift you could ask for because that has given London a profile on a global stage,” he said.

“London is already a well-known city, it has become absolutely iconic because of these Games and that opening ceremony has given London a cachet that makes people really want to be here and come here.

“We have a plan to get four million additional tourists here over the next four years. It may be a bit up and down over the next few weeks but it is going to be terrific for London businesses.”

Transport for London has abandoned recorded warnings from Mayor Boris Johnson about expected congestion, blamed by some businesses for scaring people away from the city centre.

Figures from Experian suggested that footfall was down 9.6 per cent in east London stores and 4.53 per cent in the West End compared to last year on Monday and Tuesday this week.

The Licensed Taxi Drivers Association said cab drivers had been hit hard, with business down by about 20-40 per cent.

Mr Hunt also said Locog had already managed to claim back almost 7,000 tickets for unfilled corporate seats.

A total of 3,000 tickets were clawed back and sold online on Monday this week and a further 3,800 the following day, he said.

“We are getting as many back as we possibly can because it does break your heart to see an empty seat,” he said. “There are still a few but the problem is a lot better than it was a few days ago.”

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