Merlin Entertainments has launched the ‘SOS London’ campaign at the London Eye, calling on the UK government to save tourism, organise campaigns and support the industry during the coronavirus crisis.
Merlin leads 10,776 businesses in issuing a call for action to avert the tourism crisis in London, including tourist attractions, restaurants, hoteliers, travel bodies and event organisers.
Merlin is supported by trade associations including UKHospitality, Tourism Alliance, ETOA and UKinbound to form the ‘SOS London Tourism Collective’.
These businesses are urging Prime Minister Boris Johnson to aid the recovery of the capital’s tourism industry or face an economic crisis.
Merlin and other companies want the government to urgently kickstart London’s tourism sector and aid its recovery through investment and a clear strategic plan to welcome tourists.
‘SOS London’ would like to see the government address investment in domestic and international marketing campaigns, promoting London as a safe and welcoming tourist destination.
Merlin leads 10,776 businesses in call for action
The campaign is also calling for an extension to the business rates holiday by another year, in order to avoid seasonal businesses being hit with an end of year bill when cash reserves are low.
“The measures announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer last week are hugely appreciated, but we now need to look further ahead to tackle future challenges,” said Sunny Jouhal, general manager of the London Eye.
“Tourism in the capital is in crisis due to three months of London effectively being closed, even with the ability for some businesses to reopen, the industry is already half-way through its peak season making it impossible for many across the sector to recover.
“We’re launching SOS London with a wide selection of industry partners to take collective action and ensure the London tourism sector survives. London is practically empty and there is no concrete plan for recovery in place.
“If the UK Government does not act now, we will see one of the biggest missed opportunities on Britain’s road to recovery and prosperity,” added Jouhal.
Tourism is the second biggest employer after financial services, and is vital to the London economy. In 2019, there were 40.9 million overseas visitors to the UK, with more than half heading to London.
SOS London’s manifesto statements
Save Tourism – Immediate government intervention to save the tourism sector in London with a strategic roadmap to recovery for the capital, developed with industry leaders.
Organise Campaigns – Financial resources must be made available for domestic and international campaigns, with the spend and scale of post-terror attack campaigns.
Support The Industry – Tourism businesses in London need an extension to the business rates holiday for one year, an increase of the Business Rate Relief threshold from £51,000 to £150,000, and at least 9 months’ rent relief support.
“While the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s announcement is welcome, I’m very concerned that it does not go far enough,” said Florence Eshalomi, Labour MP for Vauxhall.
“Having spoken to a diverse range of business owners in my Vauxhall constituency, the fact remains that cafes, restaurants, hotels and attractions are struggling to keep their business afloat.
“If the government does not take immediate action, the long-term prosperity of the area will be under threat and we risk losing fantastic businesses people know and love. The London tourism industry is fundamental to the economic recovery of the capital.”
Merlin previously applauded Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s announcement to cut VAT on hospitality, including theme parks and attractions, from 20 percent to 5 percent.