Ash crisis sees the capital lose £100m

LONDON has lost up to £100m from tourist spending as a result of the six-day flight disruption caused by the Icelandic volcano eruption.

Visit London, the online tourism website, said yesterday that visitors arriving by air would have spent up to £17m a day in the city but that the airspace closure caused London an “opportunity loss” of around £100m.

The travel group also reported that London’s hotels saw occupancy rates during the period fall by as much as 25 per cent after stranded passengers found alternative ways of getting home and were not replaced.

“Although airspace has now reopened, it will still take some time for tourism businesses in the capital to see an uplift in trade from overseas visitors,” said Visit London’s chief executive, Sally Chatterjee.

The group also said that businesses relying heavily on London’s tourist traffic, such as tour operators and theatres, reported a decline in trade during the period, while the numbers of shoppers also dropped.

London’s mayor Boris Johnson said: “Coming out of the economic downturn, the last thing the capital’s economy needed was all air traffic in and out of the city grounded for a week.”

Visit London said the city last year saw just over 14m overseas visitors, who spent a total of £8.3bn.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) defended its move to suspend flights last week after it said: “Throughout this crisis, our key principle has been public safety. It’s entirely understandable that passengers and airlines don’t want an interruption to services. But we have to do what’s right for public safety – and will continue to do so.”