Tuesday, June 25

Coronavirus: West End suffers as Asian tourists stay away



The impact of the coronavirus scare has spread from Chinatown to much of the West End as high-spending Asian tourists stay away.

Restaurants in areas such as Mayfair and Knightsbridge reported a slump in trade in the past fortnight, although most of the rest of the capital does not yet seem to have been hit.

Adam Hyman, founder of the Code Hospitality consultancy, said: Lots of West End hoteliers and restaurants have been severely impacted in the last couple of weeks. All the big restaurants and hotels say there are just no Chinese customers.

Flight analysts ForwardKeys said its latest data showed bookings from China to Europe for March and April are 36.7 per cent down on last year.

Chef Adam Handling said that at his Covent Garden flagship Frog “this week and last have been the worst in two years” with booking numbers down by about 15 at lunchtime and 10 at supper.

Claude Bosi, head chef at Bibendum in South Kensington, said early evening bookings from Far East customers had dried up with, typically, five fewer table reservations each evening.

A restaurateur at another high-profile West End restaurant, said: “Visitors from the Far East make up a sizeable portion of the clientele of many Mayfair and Knightsbridge restaurants, particularly the luxury restaurant groups that have a strong presence in the richest cities of Asia.

“Contacts I’ve spoken to in the high-end London restaurant trade say that they have definitely seen a recent drop in customers from Asia, including regular customers who have postponed their trips to London several times now.”

The stayaway is also starting to affect stores in areas such as Bond Street. Helen Brocklebank, chief executive of luxury industry trade body Walpole, said there were no hard figures but a 70 per cent downturn in Chinese spending “feels about right”.

She added: “I would not expect things back at pre-coronavirus levels for three to four months. That is quite a long time but not as long as the Sars outbreak in 2003. We will see a nice boom when the air route opens again but in the meantime there’s going to be some pain.”

Shoppers from “Greater China” defined as China, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan spend an average of £1,104 per visit to London, according to tax-free shopping website Global Blue.