There’s nowhere in the world as vibrant as a central London street in the evening. People come from all over the world, to be with people from all over the world. A person born in Camden can sit outside a café next to someone who has just arrived from the airport to start a new life in the city, wide-eyed at the sheer size of it.
That buzz has taken a knock in the last year. Like any global city we have been severely affected by necessary public health measures which have brought international travel to a standstill.
Last year international tourist spending fell by £7.4bn. That meant lost income for theatres, shops, attractions, restaurants, and everything else that makes London great. The economics of these sectors are clear – we wouldn’t have the breadth of cultural options available to us without the support of tourism. It’s important too, to remember that one in five people in the city work in culture, hospitality, leisure and retail. Reenergising the city quickly is a moral as well as economic necessity.
Today London & Partners and the Mayor of London launched the largest domestic tourism campaign the city has ever seen. Joined by a coalition of business districts, the culture and hospitality sector, TfL and London Boroughs, they have come together to wake the city up as it safely reopens.
There will be a multi-million pound campaign of one-off events and experiences backed by a major advertising push which will reach nationwide. This is a campaign by London, for London.
The hospitality sector has bound together. Kate Nicholls from UKHospitality, John Dickie, of London First, Bernard Donoghue, the director of ALVA, and representatives from Central London Forward, the Heart of London Business Alliance and Transport for London, have all thrown their support behind the plan to get London back to the city we know and love.
This is a unique period for the capital. The streets are quieter, the queues for museums less packed, but it is no less vibrant. It is vital London is positioned as a nucleus of life to draw in people from across the UK.
In a normal year, Brits make over 93 million overseas trips. Six in 10 of them will be swapping to a domestic one. There is a huge market for London to vie for. Anyone who has tried to book a holiday cottage in Cornwall knows that people are booking alternatives quickly. For many people London can be a domestic alternative to that dream international trip.
It’s easy to underestimate how much London is seen as a global city as much as a British one. People can come here to experience the world, from Chinatown to the new Eataly Italian food hall in Liverpool Street. London can be a magnet for anyone who wants a real change of pace after a year indoors.
We also want to give Londoners their home back, and create the greatest summer since the Olympics in 2012 with the city centre teeming with events and opportunities for days out. We want to create a city where you can’t move without stumbling across a day to remember.
London’s food scene will be the kick off, reminding everyone about the world class chefs, restaurants and food markets we have here. The images of al fresco dining in Soho and Covent Garden are a brilliant reminder of what is available, and they will be on display for the whole country to see.
London will be the summer holiday destination of choice with a programme of summer family fun and late events with everything from outdoor film screenings and night-time museum openings, to street events in Piccadilly. There will even be concerts from the London Symphony Orchestra in Trafalgar Square. And of course, London will welcome eight Euro 2020 games, including the final at Wembley on 11 July.
Later in the year as the nights draw in, several of London’s cultural jewels will return, including London Fashion Week and the BFI London Film Festival.
All of this will be fun, affordable, safe, accessible and will protect jobs.
There is going to be a lot going on. You are invited to all of it.