The London riots, which have now spread to other major cities in the UK, are provoking concerns as to whether London is fully prepared for the London Olympics next year.
In the latest developments, major sporting events across the capital, including the England verses Holland football game set to take place in Wembley on Wednesday have been cancelled.
Offices have closed early and meetings across the capital are being cancelled. The bi-monthly gathering of business travel professionals in Tower Bridge is one such meeting that has been postponed.
Meanwhile the Prime Minister David Cameron, who cut his holiday short, held a COBRA (a high level government crisis group) meeting to evaluate the situation.
In a statement he urged those responsible ‘not to give into the temptation to trash their own communities’ and promised that 16, 000 police would patrol the streets of London this evening. According to reports, the Metropolitan Police may consider using plastic bullets for the first time in England.
Just two weeks ago, David Cameron was amongst officials and dignitaries who gathered in Trafalgar Square to mark the countdown for the final year of the 2012 Olympics. The positive message was that both the athletes and London were ready for the London Olympics 2012. London was jubilant.
But in the wake of the riots and lootings that have brought fear and violence to the capital, the global image of London and the UK have taken a hit. At a time when the UK is in the spotlight, this could have detrimental effects.
Mary Rance, Chief Executive UKinbound said: “The Riots of the past few days, particularly in London, are most unfortunate for the global image of the UK – and not just ahead of the Olympics but for the country’s short term and long term inbound tourism industry.
“With scenes of looting, violence and lawlessness flashing across TV screens across the globe it is absolutely vital that the Government and its agencies, as well as the UK tourism industry, work hard to put things in context. London is still one of the greatest cities in the World with an enviable record of safety. It’s important we stress that these developments are not typical”.
The European Tour Operators Association (ETOA) reassured visitors that London is still one of the safest and most vibrant destinations in the world and praised the restraint and care demonstrated by the British police.
“So long as the damage is contained outside of central London, then there will be little long-term impact on demand for London as a tourist destination.
In response to the question, “Will this impact the Olympics?” Tom Jenkins, ETOA’s Executive Director said: “No. The Olympics is, overwhelmingly, a domestic event. British people won’t be put off from visiting the Olympics in Stratford because a year earlier shop windows were broken in Hackney.”
Visit Britain issued a statement earlier today, highlighting the resilience of Britain: “Transport services, including inbound flights, are all running a good service and major tourist attractions across London and the rest of Britain remain open and unaffected, meaning international visitors can continue to enjoy the UK as per usual,”
A spokesperson at London & Partners, the official promotional agency for London said: “It is currently too early to anticipate the effect on tourism but we are monitoring the situation and we will work with the industry to respond to specific issues as they arise. Past experience tells us that London recovers very quickly from such events and we will focus on recovery activity as soon as it is viable to do so.”
Also in Europe today, City.Mobi is celebrating the success of its new guide to London.
City.Mobi offers the most comprehensive mobile travel guides available, with over 800 cities in 200 countries listed. Each is developed by the City.Mobi team to combine into a single global travel directory.
London.Mobi is the latest in this illustrious line up, offering click to call functionality – which means no scribbling down telephone numbers.
Most entries are also linked to websites where users can quickly access more detailed information if needed.
Other key features include information on accommodation, restaurants, attractions, entertainment, nightlife, shopping, and transport.
City.Mobi guides include user reviews and traveller utilities such as a translation guide, currency converter, news and local weather guide.