London’s West End Launches Digital Media Centre as UK Prepares to Welcome the World

With just 262 days until the Games, London continues to prepare for its biggest moment in recent history. As the international spotlight shines on England’s capital, its top shopping and leisure destination, the West End, is readying itself for the long-term legacy that 2012 will leave. Expecting an exponential increase in visitor numbers in the years following, this will generously add to the already thriving tourism industry, which the area has long enjoyed.

New West End Company, representing 600 businesses in Bond Street, Oxford Street and Regent Street and Heart of London Business Alliance representing over 200 businesses in Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square already welcomes 15 million international visitors per year, spending an estimated £2bn. However, with the impending Olympic Legacy and an increasing number of retailers and leisure businesses adapting to international cultures and tastes, the area can expect a 12% uplift in visitors by 2020.

A full study of the immediate impact of 2012 has been commissioned by New West End Company and will be released next year. However, as momentum builds around the Games, there is no doubt that interest in London is rapidly mounting and the need to satisfy this increasing demand is apparent. By launching a Digital Media Centre – acting as the principal information hub for the West End – New West End Company and Heart of London Business Alliance will capitalise on this enthusiasm by drawing the spotlight onto the area, making it more accessible to the world’s media than ever before.

The launch of the West End Digital Media Centre was introduced by David Shaw, Head of Regent Street Portfolio at The Crown Estate who underlined the significant investment made by The Crown Estate and gave the media an insider’s view into the new retail brands expected soon on Regent Street – including Hollister and Superdry flagship stores.

Speaking at the event, co-hosted with the Foreign Press Association, Richard Dickinson, Chief Executive of New West End Company said: “The internet is indisputably the world’s biggest, most impactful,international tool and what better time to showcase London’s West End to media online than now. 2012 is providing a magnificent opportunity – the legacy period following is forecast to contribute billions of pounds to the UK economy and crucially, the global reach of the Olympics will help leverage interest in London’s West End overseas in the next decade.”

Harold Tillman CBE, Chairman of British Fashion Council and owner of leading British brands Jaeger and Aquascutum also speaking at the launch said: “Earlier this year, London was declared the world’s top fashion capital by Global Language Monitor; perfect timing as all eyes turn to us in 2012. The West End is the beating heart of London fashion; the combination of rich, historic heritage, beautiful buildings, cutting-edge design talent and innovative retailing are just a few reasons why it will be the ultimate retail destination of 2012 and beyond”.

According to Paul Rickard, Travel & Tourism Analyst at London & Partners: “Generally speaking, we can expect London tourism to grow between an annual rate of 2-3% on average in the period 2010-30. London can expect to benefit from growing demand from Asia, Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa, however tourism numbers are still very much supported by the core and traditional markets of North America and Western Europe.”

In response to growing visitor numbers, particularly to that of increasingly significant markets such as China and the Middle East, there is no doubt that West End businesses are recognising the benefits of adapting to accommodate.

Hotels such as Le Meridien Piccadilly and Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill are offering special packages for Chinese visitors and The Westbury is working with Bond Street retailers to arrange private, late night opening hours for Middle Eastern visitors. Additionally, West End Red-Cap Ambassadors – whose function is to welcome the million visitors who come to Oxford Street and Regent Street every week – speak 20 languages between them and prime retailers such as Selfridges are working with retail tourism consultants Global Blue to increase their global appeal.

Sue West, Selfridges Director of Operations said: “Minimising language barriers and providing increased number of multi-lingual shop-floor employees is a key focus for us, as is translated printed collateral such as store maps for example. It is also absolutely crucial to take into account cultural differences – including traditions (particularly with Chinese customers) – as well as gender sensitivities. It also pays to be able to offer tourists the opportunity to buy a version of their favourite items. Chanel veils for example prove popular and on our part the availability demonstrates an appreciative cultural touch.”


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