Inside Track by Peter Martin
It is four years to the month since the 9/11 terror attacks on New York, and little more than two month’s since July’s suicide bombings here in London. Both events have changed the way we look at the world, and probably how we react to it. That’s certainly true for those working in and around the leisure, hospitality and entertainment business, especially in London. London business has suffered this summer. If anything, it was the second, failed attacks on July 21 that did most to undermine people’s confidence in travelling to the Capital and increase apprehension of future bombs. Retail sales in the West End have plummeted. Hotel occupancy levels have fallen. Arab tourists have stayed away, reflected in the news of fewer "high rollers" visiting London Clubs’ casinos. The lack of domestic visitors, rather than foreign tourists, has been the big problem. People seem prepared to come to London to work, but are more nervous about weekend leisure trips with the family. School holiday excursions to the Capital have similarly suffered. Can confidence be re-established? There are signs of improving business this month, and senior executives from across the leisure, hospitality and property markets attending this week a special seminar on the terrorist threat, organised by property specialists Davis Coffer Lyons, were generally optimistic about better times next year. But the seminar also heard from one of the Metropolitan Police’s senior security advisors of the real and continuing threat that London faces from terrorist cells. Another major strike may or may not be imminent. There are various theories, but essentially no-one really knows. So can anything be done to lessen the risk and bolster the public’s still fragile confidence? It is clear that the police are honing their intelligence gathering techniques, and believe that the public and business can play a part. Extra vigilance and a willingness to report unusual or suspicious activity might just help identify would-be attackers in the reconnaissance phase of an operation, for example. Better and more thorough use of CCTV or simply logging all enquiries about hiring rooms or renting property can also help, say the police. Scotland Yard is now actively working to raise awareness about terrorism within the business community, with experts willing to visit businesses and help train staff. There is a range of procedures businesses are being encouraged to adopt. A useful new booklet produced by the National Counter Terrorism Security Office, London First and the Security Services has just been produced, entitled "Secure in the knowledge – building a secure business". London First can be contacted on o 020 7665 1500 or via its website Other useful sites include and Of course, security planning comes with a price, but the leisure and hospitality business appears to have no option but to bear it. In all senses, London has always been a high-cost, high-risk market to trade in. Those costs and risks can only rise. The reward, however, it that London, with all its inherent attractiveness for business and tourism, has also always been a market with the potential to produce high returns.