Business 'hit by Olympics message'
The message to stay away from London during the Olympic Games has worked "too well", with businesses suffering as a result, it has been claimed.
There are fears the host city has turned into a "ghost town", with visitors flocking to Olympic venues but avoiding traditional tourist hotspots in the centre.
But despite concerns being raised by the tourism industry, the Mayor of London insisted that the city was "open for business".
A London Chamber of Commerce spokeswoman said too many people had heeded warnings about transport in the city. She said: "It's understandable that some people are staying out of the city at the moment. TfL and Locog did a good job of making people aware - maybe too good a job."
However, she stressed that it was too early to assess the impact of the Games on business, as the picture would only emerge when they have finished, and added that it was a traditionally quiet time of year for many. The spokeswoman also said there could be long-term benefits connected to international trade.
Boris Johnson said: "Things are going really well. London is open for business with world-class tourist attractions and theatres, world-renowned restaurants and world-famous shopping. "Crime is down across London, we've only needed about 40 per cent of the Games lanes so far and I'm obviously heartened that people have heeded the travel advice and have indeed got ahead of the Games."
Some theatres and tourist attractions have reported a fall in visitors. But Mr Johnson added: "Many, many thousands of people are flowing into London, the hotels are busy, the Olympic venues are attracting huge numbers and people are enjoying the brilliant live sites, a raft of free events for all the family and the free sport as well, with hundreds of thousands out over the weekend for the cycling."
Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, said cab drivers had been hit hard. He said: "Anecdotally our business is down by about 20-40% depending on the time of day. Normally about 90% of our customers are Londoners but they've all left the city and haven't been replaced by tourists. I don't know where all these tourists are or how they're getting about, but London is like a ghost town."
Retailers hoping for an Olympics boost appear to have suffered an early drop in business as visitors stay away from central London due to fears of overcrowding. London's West End is hoping for more than 25 million visits over the summer, with about 90% of those arriving for the Olympics expected to shop and eat in the area. But about 10% fewer people visited the West End and 7% fewer visited the East End last Friday and Saturday compared with the same weekend last year, according to Experian Footfall.
A recorded message from London Mayor Boris Johnson warning passengers of "huge pressure on the transport network" that was being played in London Underground stations was discontinued today, a Tfl spokesman said. But stopping the recorded message is not part of any new strategy, he said.