The centre of London has become a ghost town as the world's attention focuses on the Olympics in the capital's rejuvenated East End.
Business might be booming in Stratford, but business owners in the traditionally bustling West End are blaming official warnings of transport chaos and hotels hiking their rates for a significant drop in trade.
Restaurants complain that turnover is down by up to 60 per cent, box office takings are expected to fall by a third at some theatre groups and shopping footfall has dropped by 11 per cent year-on-year. While some 100,000 Olympic visitors have arrived in London from overseas, that is just a third of the 300,000 tourists expected in a typical year.
The West End's travails will be embarrassing for London mayor Boris Johnson, who has recorded messages urging people to be careful about travelling in London, while the Prime Minister has claimed that the Games could boost British trade by £13bn.
Shops and restaurants in central London were eerily quiet as tourists stayed in Stratford and workers stayed at home.
Porters restaurant in Covent Garden took £1,600 last Friday, down by more than £4,000 on the same day last year. "This is nothing short of disastrous," its owner said.
Nica Burns of Nimax Theatres said: "We will do anything to sell tickets."
Meanwhile, Westfield in Stratford – the gateway to the Olympic Park – is buzzing, with most describing their shops and restaurants as "manic".
Evidence from Athens in 2004 and Sydney in 2000 pointed to London's experience: despite initial optimism, there is a sharp fall in total visitors and swathes of empty bedsReuse content