London bomb outrage has little impact on business

14 July 2005
London bomb outrage has little impact on business

Hospitality and tourism businesses and associations remain optimistic that last Thursday's tragic bombings in London will not have a long-term effect on trade.

Martin Couchman, deputy chief executive of the British Hospitality Association, was confident that the London bombs would not have a long-term impact on tourism or travel.

"People expected business to fall over the weekend, and there were some cancellations, but everything seems to be calm now. We are honestly not expecting a big impact on business long-term."

Hilton confirmed that, while it had lost some banquets and dinners over the weekend, it had experienced a "remarkably low level" of room cancellations and anticipated no long-term downturn.

"People were ringing to confirm that they would be coming," said a Hilton spokesman. "We have never had that before. The international traveller is becoming more resilient and less prone to panic."

He was heartened by evidence that travel agencies in Japan (which is notoriously travel-shy in the aftermath of terrorist attacks) were charging cancellation fees because there were no grounds to cancel trips to London.

This confidence contradicts the latest estimate from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), which predicts that UK visitor numbers would drop by 1.9% (or 588,000 people) in 2005, due to the bombings. This shortfall, it suggested, could cost the travel and tourism industry £927m.

WTTC president Jean-Claude Baumgarten said the impact would continue into 2006 but dissipate by 2007, assuming the British Government took strong measures to rebuild visitor confidence.

But the Association of British Travel Agents believes the terrorist attacks will have minimum long-term impacts after a slight blip in trade. A spokeswoman pointed out that Madrid, which suffered a bigger terrorist outrage last year, ended 2004 with visitors numbers 11% ahead of the previous year.

Although internet bookings agency said hotel bookings for July and August dropped by 15% year-on-year over last weekend, it, too, was confident that demand would pick up and said there were signs of recovery by Monday.

Paramount, which operates the Chez Gérard, Livebait and Bertorelli restaurant brands, also reckons that business would return to normal within a week.

The group - which confirmed the whereabouts of its 906 London staff within 36 hours - closed all its restaurants on Thursday except for those at airports and the Victoria Thistle hotel. Friday's trade was sluggish, but bounced back at some venues over the weekend.

The Restaurant Group, owner of Frankie & Benny's, Garfunkels, Chiquito and Caffe Uno brands, reported a similar pattern. A spokesman said this was just a blip and that trading was returning "pretty quickly" on Monday.

But David Ruquier, assistant manager of the Boisdale of Bishopgate restaurant near Liverpool Street station, felt trade was still slower than normal on Monday.

Hotels cut prices while staff help the injured >>

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