The Mayor of London is today calling on the Government to do more to support businesses who are seeing a significant drop in takings due to fears around the new
variant. With previous peaks of infection, when restrictions were imposed, the government put in support schemes to help businesses that needed it most – this December they need to step up an provide additional help for businesses and cultural organisations who are facing cancelled bookings at their most important time of the year.
There has been an 26 per cent drop in TfL usage week on week as central London sees a significant drop in footfall across the city.
The Mayor is urging Londoners to be vigilant and do everything they can to protect themselves, their loved ones and the NHS for the new variant – most importantly by taking up a booster jab.
Due to Londoners taking extra precautions, central London retail, hospitality and cultural businesses are already seeing the effects, with takings particularly affected by office workers following government guidance to stay at home. There was a 25 per cent surge in Christmas bookings being cancelled. Trade body UK Hospitality has forecast that takings will be down by as much as 40 per cent for December, usually the most lucrative month for venues.
The Mayor is doing what he can to encourage people to support our City’s businesses safely, including outdoor ‘winter lights’ installations across the city which has seen the ‘Aurora Borealis’ – the Northern lights – projected over the Guildhall in the city of London, for visitors to view free of charge.
Sadiq's Let’s Do London domestic tourism campaign has been a lifeline for the retail, culture, leisure, and hospitality sectors across the city during this challenging time, delivering a spending boost worth £70 million to London. Prior to onset of the new variant and the Covid threat level increasing, the Let’s Do London campaign helped drive an increase of 33% in weekday daytime footfall and an increase of 43% in weekend evening footfall between May to November.
From art and music to fashion and theatre, Londoners and visitors have been able to see the best that the city has to offer. Events that have been funded as part of the Let’s Do London campaign include; almost 10,000 free tickets for film screenings on Trafalgar Square over the summer; an estimated 100,000 people coming to the city to the family friendly Pop-Up London festival with theatre, dance and music performances over October half term; and, as part of the latest Winter Lights season of the campaign, over 50,000 tickets available to experience the awe-inspiring Borealis installation at Guildhall Yard this December - there has been something for everyone.
Other eye-catching outdoor attractions that are safe and enjoyable options for visitors this winter, include an enchanting animal-themed winter light display at the Tower of London and a free Canary Wharf Winter Lights Spectacular, which will feature 20 new light commissions by some of the most innovative artists across the globe, an ice rink and outdoor food market.
Thousands of illuminated white roses have been placed in Grosvenor Square as part of an Ever After Garden display by fashion designer Anya Hindmarch. Illuminated River, a free public artwork that brings moving light and colour to nine of London’s bridges is the longest public art project in the world, and a Circa commission by Hetain Patel is using the Piccadilly Lights to explore themes of immigration and identity.
With the Covid threat level now raise to four, and ‘Plan B’ in effect, the Mayor is calling on the Government to provide the support needed to ensure that the hospitality and culture sectors – two of the worst hit sectors by the pandemic – are not left to take a backwards step in their hard-fought recovery.
Sadiq is calling for the Government to provide additional support for boroughs so they can provide discretionary grants to businesses directly affected by new guidance, for full business rates relief for the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors to be reintroduced until March 2022 and for an extension of the existing VAT relief for hospitality, accommodation and certain attractions beyond March 2022. Additional support will be needed if the new guidance continues for a significant period or further restrictions are required.
Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, said: “Getting London's economy back on its feet is a top priority but businesses are set to be hit very hard again this winter – this time without additional Government support.
“The Government must recognise the impact Omicron is going to have on our hospitality, culture, retail and leisure industries, particularly in this 'golden quarter' period.
"Londoners can do their bit by ensuring they get vaccinated and boosted, and safely enjoy the best our city has to offer this Christmas by following the rules, including taking lateral flow tests and wearing a face mask.
“London is the greatest city in the world to visit, and I will continue to do everything I can to support its recovery – including with our outdoor winter lights installations that are free for Londoners and visitors to safely enjoy this Christmas time."
Chair of the City of London Corporation’s Culture, Heritage and Libraries Committee, Wendy Hyde, said: “We’re proud to be hosting this extraordinary interpretation of the Northern Lights right here in the heart of the capital.
“Borealis is already becoming a major talking point for Londoners.
“Cultural spectaculars like this are re-energising the Square Mile. London is coming together, with the arts playing a leading role in our recovery from the pandemic.”
Laura Citron, CEO of London & Partners who run Visit London said: “It’s been fantastic to see visitors returning to London again over the past six months and enjoying everything our great city has to offer. London’s variety of theatres, restaurants, bars, museums and parks are world-class, making the city an ideal holiday destination for people from all across the UK and the rest of the world.
“Looking ahead, 2022 promises to be a special year for London with lots of exciting new events, theatre shows and cultural attractions set to open. We look forward to continuing to work closely with London’s hospitality and tourism industry to welcome visitors to the UK capital and provide them with a safe and enjoyable experience.”
Julian Bird, Chief Executive, SOLT said: “Being part of the Let's Do London campaign has been invaluable in helping us welcome audiences back into our venues to enjoy world-leading live entertainment. Theatres are the lifeblood of the West End and the pandemic has shown just how vital they are for a thriving central London ecosystem. With a challenging few weeks and months ahead, we are hugely grateful for the Mayor's support - particularly in his championing of our industry-wide New Year Sale campaign, which continues into January and February. Theatres remain open in accordance with official guidelines, and we encourage audiences to book tickets, to help keep the shows running and to protect our incredible workforce.”
Quote from Kate Nicholls, Chief Executive, UKHospitality said: “The investment that the Mayor has made to revive trips into the capital is thankfully seeing returns on investment, with so many people once again enjoying the countless ways of experiencing all that London has to offer. Together, consumers, business, the Mayor and all levels of Government can help recovery and nurture a renaissance of London’s hospitality and tourism and already we are delivering meaningful results. The challenge now, made all the harder by the Omicron variant, is sustained the recovery bolster the appetite for inbound tourism while boosting domestic demand. We know that London has the attractions to do it, so we will all play our part to get the job done.” Photo by Pilgab, Wikimedia commons.