THE tourism industry in London is struggling to compete with the Olympic games, businesses claimed yesterday. They said London 2012 had turned the city into a “ghost town”.
A number of tourist hotspots have reported a decline in ticket sales. Theatre companies say they are seeing a “mixed picture”.
Mark Rubinstein, president of the Society of London Theatre, said: “Normally tourists will visit central London but they are mostly here to see the Games.
“The message about travel problems also seems to have kept people away. My experience is things are running smoothly and people should not be put off.
“There is a great opportunity to get out there to see some fantastic shows.”
Sri Balay, online sales manager at Leicester Square Box Office, said: “Theatre in general is pretty quiet. We have a lot of visitors going past but they are going to Olympic events or spending a lot on hotels.
“We would usually be busy at this time of year because it’s the summer holidays and lots of families enjoy going to the theatre. But at the moment it’s very quiet.”
Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, said cab drivers had been hit hard and described London as a “ghost town”.
Mr McNamara added: “Anecdotally our business is down by about 20-40 per cent 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“Normally about 90% of our customers are Londoners but they’ve all left the city and haven’t been replaced by tourists.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.
“Some drivers are working longer hours just to stand still, others have taken a conscious decision not to pay certain bills while others have just given up and gone away.”
A spokeswoman for the British Museum said there had been a fall in the number of visitors.
“Anecdotally at the moment, it is looking like we are about 25-30% down on the same time last year,” she said.
“The positive thing from the museum’s perspective and something we would be keen to get across is that we are open and ready to take visitors and so it is an extremely good time to come to the British Museum and we would encourage everyone to do that.”