Deputy mayors stress importance of domestic visitors to London’s economic recovery

Deputy mayors stress importance of domestic visitors to London’s economic recovery

London will increasingly be looking to “staycationers” and domestic tourists to kickstart the Central Activities Zone (CAZ) economy as the city begins its recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

That was the message today from City Hall deputy majors Rajesh Agrawal and Justine Simons as the London Assembly’s economy committee reviewed progress on business support, skills and culture over the course of Sadiq Khan’s first term in office.

“London is the economic engine of the UK, and the Central Activities Zone is crucial to that, the Mayor’s business deputy Agrawal told the committee, highlighting £5 million allocated by Khan in his 2021/22 budget to support the reopening.

With international tourism likely to remain low, the focus would be on encouraging domestic visitors, to “bring people back into Central London, from Outer London, on day trips and for longer stays,” Agrawal said. He added that City Hall research shows tourist spending in 2020 down almost £11 billion on 2019 –  international spending down by £7.4 billion and domestic by £3.3 billion – while working from home had seen a further £2 billion reduction in commuter spending.

Deputy mayor for culture Simons stressed the importance for tourism of the city’s cultural businesses. “Four out of five people coming to London come for the culture,” she said. Stating that major cities around the world are turning towards domestic tourism, Simons emphasised  Khan putting £2.3 million into City Hall’s culture at risk programme to support small venues, artists’ studios and independent theatres, plus £1 million to augment the approximately £1.5 million raised by Londoners supporting small businesses through the Pay it Forward scheme. 

Agrawal highlighted Khan’s role in lobbying for government support and the interim findings of research into prospects for Central London suggesting an “existential” threat to the CAZ without it. “The CAZ can get back on its feet with the right help, but we can’t take the recovery for granted,” he said. The warning came ahead of a well-trailed £400 million boost for culture, as well as extra support for high streets expected in tomorrow’s Budget.

A motion referred to the committee from the full Assembly calling for Khan to back a Universal Basic Income trial in London was also passed, by three votes to two, despite Conservative mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey suggesting such a scheme would not provide enough individual support and that some recipients might use the handout to buy drugs. 

The motion, urging Khan to seek government approval for a UBI pilot on the capital, which would provide a regular, unconditional cash payment to all Londoners, had been proposed originally by Green AM and mayoral candidate Sian Berry and Liberal Democrat AM Caroline Pidgeon. 

UBI would make London a “better, more equal and more productive place,” Pidgeon said after the meeting. “With many falling through the gaps during the pandemic, it is clearer than ever that our welfare system doesn’t work effectively enough.

“If a UBI had been in place before Covid-19 it would have provided automatic essential income top-ups for those who really needed it. Ensuring people have money to spend and are not living hand-to-mouth doesn’t just benefit them, but everyone.”

Watch the economy committee meeting in full here.

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