Shoppers, tourists and audiences stay away from London, a month on from attacks

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The Independent Online

London may stand united, but the impact on the capital of July's two sets of bomb attacks has nevertheless been substantial. Travel, shopping, theatre-going, eating out, hotel occupancy and general tourism in the city have all dropped in the aftermath of the bombings.

TRAVEL

London Underground said the number of Tube passengers had fallen by 450,000 a day, a figure that is reflected in greater traffic streams on the capital's roads. Rush-hour traffic volumes on major routes into the city such as the Holloway and Finchley roads is now starting to build up an hour earlier than before.

Discretionary visits to central London have fallen even further than the level of commuting, with numbers of visiting shoppers and tourists both substantially down.

SHOPPING

For the month of July as a whole, the number of people shopping in central London was down by 12.6 per cent year-on-year, according to figures released this week by the retail consultancy SPSL. SPSL's figures imply that the bombings had a cumulative effect, with the second round increasing the number of people staying away from Oxford Street and Knightsbridge.

After the initial attacks on 7 July itself, numbers of shoppers crossing the threshold of London shops and stores dived by nearly 75 per cent, although this figure bounced back quickly, and had recovered to 10.1 per cent down, year on year, by the eve of the second wave. However, although the effect of the July 21 attacks was initially smaller - shopper numbers were down just under 27 per cent on the day - since then, the recovery has been less swift.

For past week (24-30 July) numbers of shoppers in the congestion-charge zone of central London were still down by 18 per cent, compared with 2004.

SPSL says that "many day-trippers and tourists have decided to delay or abort shopping trips to the capital, reflecting fears of a series of incidents". The SPSL director, Tom Denison, added: "It seems terrorist activity is now considered an ongoing, everyday threat which will continue to impact on the London stores and potentially further afield for some months to come."

TOURISM

Tourism may have been even harder hit than shopping, with a survey published yesterday showing that almost a third of adult Britons have been put off visiting or travelling in London since the July bombings.

The figure of 31 per cent of Britons deterred from visiting the capital compares with 32 per cent of French people similarly not keen to come to London, and 20 per cent of Germans.

The poll, conducted on 26 July by the market information company TNS for CNN and Time magazine, and involving 1,000 adults contacted in Britain, 1,000 in France and 1,000 in Germany, showed other substantial effects of the terror attacks. It found that 21 per cent of Britons, and 33 per cent of those living in Greater London, said security fears had put them off using public transport.

Women are more nervous than men, the poll showed, with 40 per cent of women, compared with 21 per cent of men, being deterred from visiting London.

"In the immediate aftermath of the London bombings, it is not surprising that a significant proportion of people - not only in Britain but also in France and Germany - have been deterred from visiting London or travelling around the city," a TNS spokesman said. According to the tourist organisation Visit London, many family visits and school excursions to the capital have been postponed.

HOTELS

Occupancy in some hotels has dropped to under 50 per cent and hotel bookings for the pre-Christmas season are down by a quarter.

A regular monitoring of over 23,000 rooms in a group of leading London hotels shows that on Saturday, 30 July, for example, the occupancy rate was 67.95 per cent;on the equivalent day in 2004 the rate was 78.5 per cent.

THEATRES

The general wariness is obvious in the entertainment sector, with both restaurant and theatre bookings down. Many normally packed restaurants in the West End have had rows of empty tables this week, and trade in both restaurants and bars is estimated to be about 30 per cent down on what it would otherwise be at this time of year.

In the West End's theatres, people who booked their tickets before 7 July are generally turning up, but new bookings have fallen substantially, and some theatres are playing to audiences that are 20 per cent down.

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