London & Partners marketer claims visitor levels 'as anticipated'

Martine Ainsworth-Wells: marketing director of London & Partners
Martine Ainsworth-Wells: marketing director of London & Partners

Martine Ainsworth-Wells, who as marketing director of London & Partners is deploying new ads to encourage Britons into the capital, has sought to dispel its "ghost-town" label, claiming visitor levels are as anticipated and spending has recovered.

London & Partners is urging Londoners and the UK to "soak up" the atmosphere of the Olympic Games and not to avoid visiting the capital over the summer in a fresh marketing push, amid complaints from London retailers that the Olympics is hitting trade.

The public-private marketing body for London has pushed its Late Summer Deals digital campaign into press advertising across the Metro and Evening Standard, with the activity expected to run until the end of the week.

The ads are intended to tackle displacement during the Olympics by reminding both Londoners and people in the home counties of the capital’s attractions, theatres, shopping districts, restaurants, entertainment and open spaces, from Shakespeare at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre to the BBC Proms.

The campaign, created in-house and with agency Living Social, launched online last month and is the first domestic tourism push from London & Partners that centres on the London Olympic Games. The ads state: "Be part of the magic. Experience London's once in a lifetime summer."

Ainsworth-Wells told Marketing that the online campaign focuses on hotel accommodation and added value, offering between 20% and 50% off around 30 hotels in the capital and partnering with travel brand lastminute.com for the activity.

Ainsworth-Wells said the Late Summer Deals campaign is not a two-week solution, but part of London & Partners' long-term marketing strategy to drive an extra million visitors and one billion in revenue to the capital over the next five years.

A new visitor app launched two weeks ago as part of the activity to serve as an official London guide, which is co-branded from the Mayor of London and VisitLondon, and has received around 1,000 downloads so far. It posts daily updates of things to do in the capital.

Ainsworth-Wells claimed that hotel occupancy levels are at the usual levels, showing around 80%, and stressed that London bookings are currently outperforming other European cities.

John Lewis last week said it has seen an 8.7% drop in sales at its flagship London store in the week leading up to the Games, while London attractions and theatres have seen slower business rates since the start of the Games.

Ainsworth-Wells said the agency has been in constant talks with the capital’s retailers and theatres, claiming that businesses are seeing visitor levels and spending "turn around" as the Olympics enters its second week and the capital recovers from its ghost-town label.

She said that visitor levels in London are "as we anticipated it", adding: "We have good dialogue with hotels and attractions and restaurants and it's very easy to understand what’s going on."

Transport for London’s (TfL) preparation for the Games, including announcements from Mayor Boris Johnson warning consumers to plan journeys in advance and allow extra journey times, has kept congestion levels on public transport relatively low. The Mayor’s announcements were subsequently cut on Monday last week.

Ainsworth-Wells added: "We had spoken to the Sydney and Beijing organisers and know that the residents of host cities are often tempted to leave, but we’re very confident that the transport network is managing Londoners and tourists.

"It allows us to say that we’re coping."

London & Partners ran a previous marketing campaign, Limited Edition London, aimed at its international markets to tackle displacement in the lead up to the Games and to continue to drive leisure visitors.

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