London riots raise tourism concerns

Louise Yang and her husband were dining at The Ledbury, a two-star Michelin-rated restaurant in trendy Notting Hill, Monday night when rioters smashed through the window.

“The looters were yelling at us to get down and throwing stuff all over the place,” Yang, a software developer from Los Angeles, wrote in an account of the incident on her blog. The looting appears to be one of very few riot-related events reported in the central London neighborhoods frequented by tourists.

Yang’s engagement and wedding rings were stolen, but she promptly made insurance inquiries and spent the next day shopping in fashionable Soho and touring a Fuller’s brewery. She and her husband are heading to Italy next for a delayed honeymoon.

Getting robbed definitely wasn’t anything she expected to happen in London, Yang said Tuesday evening from her hotel room near Westminster Abbey. But it’s impossible to predict random acts, she said, “so there’s no use being paranoid about it.”

Several of travel consultant Ellen LeCompte’s clients have contacted her with concerns about travel to London, but she’s not expecting to change many itineraries.

“This morning, when I called over there to talk to a couple of friends, they said the worst has passed. Last night was quiet” in London, LeCompte said Wednesday from her office at Sterling Brownell Travel in Atlanta.

The city boosted police presence on the streets to 16,000 officers on Tuesday, and Prime Minister David Cameron said Wednesday that “a fightback is under way.”

London’s promotional agency, London & Partners, urged concerned international visitors to ask their embassies for guidance. The U.S. Embassy in London posted safety tips online for Americans confronted with unrest.

For tourists, caution and awareness are key, LeCompte said. “But for the average tourist sticking to the major tourist sites … you’re going to be OK.”

If damage remains outside key tourist areas, the European Tour Operators Association said, it expects little long-term impact on London tourism. Industry insiders say they’re ready to bounce back.

“Past experience tells us that London recovers very quickly from such events and we will focus on recovery activity as soon as it is viable to do so,” London & Partners said in a statement.

No doubt local officials are hoping for a quick recovery, with the 2012 Olympics and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee coming up next summer.


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