Businesses resolve to brave out terrorists

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The Independent Online

British and Irish businesses are worried by the resumption of terrorist violence, but confident of braving out the threat to economic success, they said yesterday.

For some, the latest bombs have had an immediate effect. Michael Gottlieb's restaurant, Smollensky's, was inaccessible for a day-and-a-half this week because of the police cordon around the wrecked double-decker bus at Aldwych, London.

But many leaders of business and industry were bullish yesterday, despite fears of more trouble. Anthony Sell, chief executive of the British Tourist Authority, said terrorism had not yet had a major effect on tourism. Only international conflicts - such as the 1986 Libyan crisis and the Gulf War in 1991 - had produced a dip in now increasing visitor numbers.

Exchange rates and transport connections were more likely to affect "positive" tourism trends. More than 24 million visitors were expected this year, spending an estimated pounds 12billion.

Meanwhile, a Corporation of London spokesman said the troubles did not affect the City's position as probably the world's premier financial centre."Most of the other financial centres - Paris, Tokyo, New York - have been victims of terrorism. But the City has probably the best security measures," he said.

Susan Whiddington, of the Society of London Theatre, said any impact would not be seen for up to three weeks because of advance bookings. However, audiences generally returned after the fourth week.

"People in the UK are pretty stalwart," she said.

Other businesses were more cautious. Michael Gottlieb, also chairman of the Restaurateurs' Association, said that Londoners were "hardened to the occasional bombing, but foreign tourists see what happens through a magnifying glass."

Denis Galway, president of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, called for prompt action to renew dialogue if recent economic breakthroughs were to be preserved.

A tourism boom saw a 56 per cent leap in the number of visitors to Ireland last year, and Mr Galway said there were more potential investors in the last 15 months than last 15 years.

"Northern Ireland was always a very good place to invest in, but the perception was that it was dangerous. That perception was removed and we hope it will not return,"he said.

Baroness Denton, Minister for the Economy in Northern Ireland, said people had recognised successful businesses could be developed in the province.

"Obviously, it will be harder to get people to come here. But when it's tough, the tough get going. We will continue to build," she added.

Tesco and Sainsbury were among those who last year announced ambitious plans to open stores in the province.

Both are ready to proceed. A Tesco spokeswoman said: "We are obviously concerned . . . but at the moment see no reason to change our plans."