Businesses that are marketed effectively around the Games are seeing a "big boost", Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt insisted today after claims the message to stay away from London during the Olympics had worked "too well", affecting some traders.
Speaking after chairing this morning's daily ministerial Olympics meeting in Whitehall, Mr Hunt described the overall picture in the East End of the capital, close to the Olympic Park, as "very encouraging", but acknowledged the numbers of people in the West End "may not be quite as high as they hoped for".
Fears were expressed earlier that the host city had turned into a "ghost town", with visitors flocking to Olympic venues, but avoiding traditional tourist hotspots in the centre.
Despite concerns raised by the tourism industry, the Mayor of London Boris Johnson yesterday insisted the city was "open for business".
A London Chamber of Commerce spokeswoman previously said too many people had heeded warnings about transport in the city.
Asked if people had been encouraged not to come to the capital too much, Mr Hunt said: "I think we've got to actually get this in perspective. In terms of people coming to London we are getting record numbers of people coming to London and overall the picture in the East End of London is very encouraging.
"Westfield are getting about 40,000 more shoppers every day than they anticipated. In the West End we're actually getting about the same numbers of people coming into the West End as this time last year. It may not be quite as high as they hoped for, but there are businesses that are marketed really effectively around the Games that are seeing a big boost and actually the West End is doing very well in the evening as well."
Mr Hunt stressed the Games would be of long-term benefit to businesses in the capital, adding: "I think the point for all London retailers, London theatres and London hotels is that having the Games in London is the best possible publicity they could hope for.
"London is already one of the world's great cities, but these Games have made it iconic and if you have a business in London, in the years to come you are going to benefit massively from the huge amount of publicity, PR, promotion and marketing that you get from having a Games in London."
Mr Hunt praised Britain's athletes in action last night. He said: "It's going pretty well, day five, we've had some fantastic sporting moments yesterday. Michael Phelps getting a record number of medals ever, a brilliant moment for our equestrian team, and in women's football beating Brazil at Wembley with record crowds ever for women's football in this country.
"So we've had some really good moments. The transport system is working very, very well indeed, Heathrow is working well, I think best of all there is a terrific atmosphere in the stadia, and in a very British way we're giving huge roars for Team GB at every opportunity, but also a really good welcome to all the teams from other countries, so I think it's been an encouraging start."
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