Games brings economic respite but London pines for tourists

City escapes recession after nine months but taxi drivers see growth as only short term

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 November, 2012, 4:09am

The London Olympics may well have helped Britain come out of recession but it does not seem to have helped attract tourists.

In a recent trip to London, White Collar talked to a number of taxi drivers to find out what was going on in the city.

One, who has been driving a taxi for more than 20 years, said that while he had ferried many more tourists this year compared with previous years, it had nothing to do with the Olympic Games.

What attracted them were the many activities in June to celebrate Queen Elizabeth's 60th year on the throne. In fact, he had experienced the quietest period of his two-decade driving career when London hosted the Games in the summer.

"You could never imagine how quiet it was in the heart of the City of London. There was nobody walking. The city was empty," he said.

"There were a few tourists coming for the Games but they preferred to take the Underground rather than the taxi."

The driver said he believed tourists avoided London during the Olympics for fear of soaring hotel prices. Many also considered watching the Games at home - a better and cheaper option.

While the sporting event failed to attract many tourists, it, however, helped to boost the weak British economy slightly as tickets sales and spending on the events injected money into local businesses.

Official statistics issued last month showed the British economy emerged from its nine-month recession in the July-September quarter as analysts said spending on the Olympics helped it grow by a bigger-than-expected 1 per cent.

This may well explain why Japan or Spain, which are suffering from economic downturns, are still keen on fighting for the right to host the 2020 Olympic Games as they believe being the host country could help boost job opportunities and economic growth for their countries.

But as the taxi driver said the Games might well only result in a one-off quarter growth as overall economic activities remained weak.

This is no surprise as Europe is a major trading partner with Britain and economic problems in the continent naturally have a negative impact on Britain. Even the taxi driver said future growth was likely to come from Asia.

"Nowadays, I drive at least one Chinese or Indian businessman a day and students who are coming to Britain to do business or study. Their spending will be very important here," he said.

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