Olympic slump as ghost town effect worsens

Kasmira Jefford
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NEW DATA released yesterday shows just how hard central London has been hit by the Olympics’ focus on the east of the City, with fewer visitor numbers and a significant drop in traffic in the area.

Figures from retail specialist Springboard shows that shops and restaurants were much quieter than expected over the first weekend of the games, with footfall down a staggering 21 per cent on last year.

Overall, UK high streets recorded a nine per cent drop in footfall.

“Town centres & high streets had predicted that the double whammy of major televised sporting event and good weather would not be good for sales last weekend, but the Olympic drop off is still more than expected,” Diane Wehrle, Springboard’s head of retail insights said.

Despite warnings of traffic queues and delays, public transport systems have also been less congested. Q-Park, which operates 16 parking facilities in the West End, said it had seen a fall in traffic of up to 40 per cent in some facilities since the opening ceremony.

“We have always thought that these couple of weeks would be quite disrupted and unusual”, Brian Bickell, chief executive of Shaftesbury, one the West End’s biggest landlords said.

“I am not surprised that people are spending the day out at that [at the Olympic park] rather than coming into the West End. They want to soak up the atmosphere.”

Some hotels have also bemoaned a marked fall in customers.

Millenium & Copthorne, the owner of Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge hotel, yesterday said it has seen revenues from its London hotels fall 12.5 per cent in the first 24 days of July, due in part to a slowdown in visitors ahead of the Olympics.

But other parts of London have reported a welcome Olympic boost, with Land Securities’ One New Change shopping centre in St Paul’s reporting a 10 per cent rise in footfall over the weekend.