Jeremy Hunt admits Olympic Games have put off London's tourists

Government still hoping for economic boost as fears of transport chaos leave West End empty

Tourists are steering clear of London because of the Olympic "upheaval", the Culture Secretary has admitted. But the Government is refusing to downgrade David Cameron's prediction that the Games will provide a £13bn boost for the UK economy.

West End retailers, theatres and restaurants say warnings of transport chaos have deterred tourists and locals, turning London into a "ghost town". Jeremy Hunt said he was now expecting "just under 750,000 additional visitors" during the six weeks spanning the Olympics and Paralympics.

Some potential visitors have been put off, the minister responsible for tourism acknowledged. "There are [far] fewer European tour groups, probably accentuated by the Euro crisis," Mr Hunt said. "Some tourist groups stay away from an Olympic host city because the logistics are so much harder. On the other hand we get a lot of new visitors who come to spend money in different ways."

Mr Hunt's department has put together what he calls "the biggest ever tourism marketing campaign". "Our target is an additional 4.5 million visitors in four years," he said.

He said he was not disappointed by reports of empty streets and a dramatic fall in trade since the Games began. "It is very difficult to predict what will actually happen to consumer spending in one part of London during something like an Olympic games because the upheaval is so huge. We are hoping to come away net positive in terms of the overall period of the Games but we don't know."

The warnings on trains and buses, urging travellers to take care during the Games, may have reduced the numbers on the streets. Figures released yesterday by Locog suggested that nearly one in five motorists had abandoned the roads, with the overall flow of vehicles falling by 17 per cent since the Games began. Record numbers of travellers are now using the Docklands Light Railway, which services Games sites including the Olympic Park in Stratford and Greenwich Park, which is hosting the equestrian events.

Mr Hunt said: "We have been putting a strong message out to Londoners to try and ease the pressure on the transport system. There's a lot of people working from home. The result is, contrary to expectations, the transport system has held up extremely well and we are able to get people to and from the Olympic venues."

He urged critics to "take a bigger view on this. What the Olympics is doing is cementing London's reputation as one of the great cities. What we are confident of is that following the Games, as a result of the large boost to Britain's reputation, there will be huge benefit to West End retailers, theatres, London's restaurants and hotels. It will be as brilliant for London's reputation as Barcelona and Sydney were for their cities."

Speaking during a business summit, held at Lancaster House in St James's, designed to drum up business for Britain's creative industries, Mr Hunt said the Government was determined to maximise the economic potential of the Games. UKTI [the UK Trade & Investment quango] is hoping for £1bn of deals signed during the Olympics," he said. "We're still at the start so it's too early to point to any individual deals. We are very confident that on the back of the Games we will sign a significant number of new contracts."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before