Magazine article Marketing

News Analysis: London One Year On

Magazine article Marketing

News Analysis: London One Year On

Article excerpt

Visit London's response to 7/7 enticed overseas tourists more than fellow Britons to the capital.

Thursday 7 July 2005: London wakes up with an Olympics-induced hangover. But its celebrations for triumphing in the bid are cut short as a series of bombs rips through London's transport system, killing 52 people and injuring hundreds. As images of the mangled frame of the Tavistock Square bus are beamed around the world, London's u15bn tourist industry braces itself for the worst.

One year on, the impact of the blasts is reflected in emptier shops and unused hotel rooms. For example, footfall at toy store Hamleys, which depends on the tourist trade, is down on last year. And Premier Travel Inn's room occupancy for London has also fallen, despite being up in the rest of the UK.

However, research by tourist body Visit London shows the capital is far more resilient than expected. Initial projections by Oxford Economic Forecasting estimated that u532m of tourism revenue would be lost as a result of the bombs. In fact, London's tourism income rose by 9.5% during 2005, according to Visit London, which led the tourism response to the bombings. It is an achievement that has resulted in part due to a concerted marketing effort in the wake of the blasts.

As it turned out, London's problem was not foreign tourists choosing to holiday elsewhere; Visit London's research shows that overseas and business tourism was holding up well following the blasts. Rather, it was the domestic market that was in danger of collapse. Just weeks before the school summer holidays, parents across the country were abandoning plans to take their children to the capital. Given that parents tend to plan trips months in advance, the impact on the area's attrac-tions threatened to be long-lasting.

Transport budget

The strategy adopted by Visit London was to encourage UK consumers back into the city centre and onto public transport. It secured an extra u2m in funding, on top of its u15m budget, from the Greater London Authority, London Development Agency and Transport for London.

The bulk of the funding was spent on a series of events in the last quarter of 2005. In September, Visit London promoted the Regent Street Festival and organised a concert on Tower Bridge. And in December it closed Oxford Street to traffic for a Christmas shopping festival, attracting 500,000 people. It also collaborated with Transport for London on an 'Everyone's London' initiative, offering discounts on attractions for people using public transport.

The strategy appears to have paid off. According to Visit London, the campaign generated u5.4m for London's economy and helped buoy the domestic market. And, as expected, numbers of overseas visitors held firm - they were up 3% year on year in 2005 and have shown a similar increase so far in 2006.

These findings are supported by retail statistics. According to research firm SPSL, retail traffic in central London declined significantly between July and October, but by November it was down just 0.9% year on year. It highlights that this is a quicker recovery than was experienced in Madrid after the 2004 train bombings.

The lesson learned, according to Visit London chief executive James Bidwell, is not to rush into a response. Within three days of the blasts, Visit London had put together a campaign for worldwide audiences, stating that London was open for business. …

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