Imagine travelling thousands of miles to be greeted by uninterested London office workers more concerned about getting lunch than welcoming visitors from far off lands. It would be bad enough for an ordinary tourist, but if you happen to be a head of state perched next to the Queen in an open landau proceeding ceremonially along a central London street, such obvious indifference might strike you as somewhat galling.

Just as well then, that, as of yesterday the ceremonial route to mark the start of a state visit was changed with the arrival in Britain of Robert Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe. Instead of starting the lunchtime ceremonial procession at Victoria station and proceeding along the office-lined Victoria Street, the route was amended to start at Horseguards Parade where enthusiastic tourists dutifully gathered in abundance. From there it was plain sailing to get to Buckingham Palace along the Mall, awash with appreciative onlookers.

Maurice Pillinger, a special operations manager for Westminster council, who is responsible for liaising with the palace and the police over ceremonial events, said: 'The office workers have got used to it over the years. They've seen it all before, so you're going to get a much better reception from the tourists along the Mall.'

There are other advantages to shortening the route; less traffic congestion, less security, and less expense. Mr Pillinger will not have to send out his team to remove street furniture around Parliament Square to give the royal carriages a wider berth.

But shortening the route means that, unless visiting heads of state opt for a trip on one of the capital's topless sight-seeing buses during their stay, they will miss out on some notable tourist attractions, including Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral.

(Photograph omitted)

(Map omitted)