London is set to miss out on £10.9bn from a drop in tourist spending as a result of the coronavirus crisis, Sadiq Khan has warned, as footfall in the capital remains well below pre-pandemic levels.
Overseas tourists will spend £7.4bn less on goods and services in London this year, while domestic tourists will spend £3.5bn lower than normal levels by the end of 2020, according to City Hall analysis of Visit Britain forecasts.
The London mayor said the data showed fresh bailouts and government support packages announced by the chancellor yesterday are only “a sticking plaster solution”.
Khan warned the collapse of London tourism will leave businesses in the capital without hope of returning to normal for “many months to come”.
“This analysis shows the eye-watering drop in the money spent by visitors in the economic and cultural heart of the capital —– which is far greater than even the impact of fewer commuters travelling into the centre of the city each day,” said the mayor.
“Clearly, this will mean many businesses are in danger of closing and many thousands of jobs will be at risk.”
It comes as visits to London’s high streets fell 2.3 per cent in the week ending 17 October, according to data company Springboard, following months of decline during lockdown.
London welcomed almost 22m overseas visitors last year, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
The latest figures showed a 19 per cent drop in international tourism to the capital in the first three months of the year, before the pandemic took hold in the UK.
The World Tourism and Travel Council last month predicted that London will be the hardest hit European city from the pandemic, with the capital losing vital cash from international tourism — which accounts for a staggering six pounds out of every seven spent in London.
The mayor added: “I’m determined to do all I can to support London’s economic recovery now, and in the years to come. But these sectors won’t be able to sustain pre-pandemic levels of employment until tourists return in significant numbers — so [the] government must act swiftly to prevent widespread job losses and the financial hardship this will bring for Londoners, many of whom are already struggling to make ends meet.”
Khan urged the government to roll out a “functioning” test and trace system to prop up the reopening of the economy, alongside an extension of the business rates holiday into the new year.
He also called on ministers to reverse proposals to end duty-free shopping for tourists, in what the mayor said would deal “a further blow to the central London businesses which benefit from the millions spent by visitors taking advantage of the scheme”.
It comes after chancellor Rishi Sunak yesterday unveiled increased support for jobs and workers hit by fresh lockdown restrictions, following mounting backlash from businesses under Tier 2 restrictions across the country.
But industry figures have warned the new scheme will do little to support retail, hospitality, leisure and tourism jobs across the country.
Baroness Patience Wheatcroft, chair of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, said: “Tourism is one of London’s largest and most important industries… Everyone in London knows someone who works in tourism and they know how decimated the industry is.
“We need specific help from the government for our hospitality and tourism sectors to keep businesses afloat, keep people in their jobs and to market London to the UK domestic market, and to the world, so we can welcome back our inbound tourists when they are ready to return.”