By Ian Dunt
Londoners and tourists should return to the capital and boost spending, David Cameron said today.
The prime minister's comments come amid signs restaurants in the West End are seeing sales down 40% as customers flock out of London to avoid the Olympics.
"Clearly there is a challenge now to say to Londoners - to the British public who've helped us to, as it were, defeat the threat of meltdown on the traffic system - to say to them now, London's working well, it's open for business, come back into the capital, come and shop, come and eat in London's restaurants and let's make sure that all of London's economy benefits from this," Cameron told Sky News.
"It's still big challenges to overcome, but the country I think is enjoying these Games, they're very well put on, we're getting a lot of praise internationally for how they're being done and my interest is we're also winning some big deals."
Jeremy Hunt faced criticism yesterday when he claimed central London shops were "quids in".
Asked about a fall in trade, he replied: "This is absolute nonsense and we have just got to knock this on the head. Anyone who has a business anywhere in London is frankly quids in."
Ministers are keen to downplay the concerns around reducing shopping numbers, but the problem is being taken seriously in London. Boris Johnson has held an emergency session with tourist and retail bosses to discuss boosting retail.
"I think we have to take a slightly longer-term view on this - if you have a business in London, particularly a tourism business - a theatre or restaurant or hotel - then having the Olympics in London is the best possible gift you could ask for because that has given London a profile on a global stage," Hunt said.
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By Ian Dunt
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