London’s West End could lose 50,000 retail staff amid £10bn-a-year shortfall after plunge in foreign visitors and office workers (as restaurants lie empty 24-hours after end of Rishi’s meal deals)
- Tory MP for Cities of London and Westminster said people had to get back in to save jobs and help the city
- Nickie Aitken said fears over coronavirus and safety were harming the economy and losing billions of pounds
- She estimated 50,000 people in the capital’s retail sector faced losing their jobs after tourists avoided area
- Ms Aitken added the West End could use £10billion a year if situation remained the same as during lockdown
- It came as Edinburgh hospitality chiefs said two million visitors had stayed home after festival was axed
London‘s West End faces losing £10billion a year and 50,000 jobs because visitors are staying away from the city hotspot.
Strict quarantine rules combined with the fears of infection in the UK have seen overseas travellers drop out from coming to the capital.
And office staff refusing to go back to work have also seen shops and hospitality plummet to dangerous levels.
Nickie Aiken, Tory MP for Cities of London and Westminster, said as many as 50,000 people in the capital’s retail sector faced losing their jobs due to the lack of visitors.
She said the loss of international visitors had majorly impacted London’s economy.
Ms Aitken said: “Almost half of the £10 billion annual spend in the West End is from overseas travellers and then the lack of office workers who have not been back at their desks since March, that has a huge effect on the overall turnover of West End shops and hospitality.
“Between about 70-80% – you’re basically looking at about 50,000 job losses retail job losses in West End retail alone.”
Before and after: Monday’s streets were busy compared to today’s desolated London scenes
Ms Aiken told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: a “huge fall off in confidence” regarding the perceived safety of public transport was partly behind the drop in shoppers.
She added: “We’ve got to get that back, we’ve got to get businesses, the Mayor of London and Government to work together to provide that confidence to get people back in.”
The doomsday-style predictions came as Edinburgh said it had seen a two million slump in visitor numbers in August.
Hospitality chiefs said the absence of 25,000 performers and the demise of ‘the after-work pint’ contributed to the fall.
Nickie Aiken, Tory MP for Cities of London and Westminster, said 50,000 jobs could be at risk
Ms Aitken said that £10 billion a year could be missing from the West End through lockdown
The number of people on the streets of the Scottish capital was down to 700,000 in August compared to 2.7million in the same month last year.
The Edinburgh Hotels Association said the average occupancy was down to just 50 per cent in August – at a time when they would normally be almost full.
The average price of a hotel room was just £76 – down 52 per cent on the same period in 2019 – as prices were slashed to try to drum up business.
Association chiefs described the situation as ‘much worse than expected’.
Rishi Sunak’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme had seen people return for cut-price food deals
City centre leaders said the many businesses are now in ‘survival mode’ following the ‘double whammy’ of the festivals cancellation and the lack of office workers.
The new figures have emerged as organisers of the Edinburgh International Festival predicted they may have to rely on local audiences in 2021.
Director Fergus Linehan said: “I don’t think it’s going to be a question of turning a tap on or off.
“It’s going to be a gradual journey back.”
Edinburgh has reported a shortfall of some two million visitors during lockdown
Businesses have said the cancellation of the world-famous festival had hit Edinburgh hard
Roddy Smith, chief executive of Essential Edinburgh, the business group which monitors city centre footfall, said: “August and December are always the busiest months so it is not surprising the numbers are so heavily down considering the lack of festival activity as well as the significantly reduced number of tourists and office workers in the city centre.
“The majority of retailers and hospitality businesses are in purely survival mode and need the support of residents, workers and tourists.
“Although there are signs of recovery, it is going to be many months before the city returns to normal operations.”
Garry Clark, development manager at the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “City centre businesses have reported that the double whammy of the festivals cancellation and the lack of office workers has had a material impact, with trade at a fraction of normal levels for August.
“By contrast, there are more encouraging signs reported by businesses in suburban areas, where increased home working seems to be having a more positive effect.”
Hotels association spokesman Russell Imrie said: “The very large drop in average rate at which each room was sold was much worse than expected and was a symptomatic of the large number of hotels trying to attract substantially reduced numbers of visitors.”
Louise Maclean, sales and marketing director at the Signature Pub Group, said: “The city centre venues miss the office workers dreadfully and the lunch time trade is particularly poor.
“The demise of the after-work pint and grabbing a bite in a bar spontaneously has, for the moment gone, and we would love that back – that will demonstrate progress in the fight against coronavirus and also bring greater positivity for the trade.
“Spontaneous hospitality in general appears to be a long way off and whilst we understand the reasons why and wholly support the measures to keep everyone safe, we do miss those days.”