Mayor Reverses War Downturn with Totally LondonDate: 16 April 2003
London mayor Ken Livingstone is backing another campaign to boost attendance in West End theatres, in the wake of a deeper slump caused by the war in Iraq.
It won't be the first time that the mayor's office has intervened in such a way. Following the tourism downturn after September 11th, Livingstone launched the "Greatest Show on Earth" ticket promotion to lure domestic audiences into theatres to compensate for the lack of foreign visitors, with a similar campaign repeated this year (See News, 21 Dec 2002 & 15 Jan 2003).
More far-reaching than these earlier theatre-specific efforts, the new "Totally London" promotion, which is being run in conjunction with the Evening Standard newspaper and local radio station 95.8 Capital FM, also takes in other aspects of the capital's leisure and entertainment industries.
It's backed by the London Chamber of Commerce and senior business figures, who are being encouraged to weigh in with their own visitor incentives. As part of the Totally London month from 17 May to 15 June 2003, discounts at a variety of shops, bars, restaurants and hotels as well as hotels and other visitor attractions will be made available. Weekend rates for buses, Tubes and trains will also be reduced.
A statement on the London Tourist Board website explains the thinking behind the promotion. "War in Iraq fortunately did not directly touch London," it says. "But unfortunately parts of London's leisure and tourist industry did not entirely escape the war's indirect effects. We know from daily contact with London's shops, restaurants and visitor attractions that business has been affected."
The mayor's Totally London campaign is, according to LTB, a "unique opportunity for a good time and good business to go together. London's incredible range of attractions are always there. For a month, they will be highlighted in a way that is unique for Londoners and visitors to enjoy."
Though Livingstone has previously promised to make his first-quarter, cheap ticket scheme an annual fixture, this year's "Get into London Theatre" campaign has not gone without criticism. The mayor's office stumped up £350,000 to lower ticket prices to £10, £15 and £20 for some 70 London productions over two months from mid-January, with the express purpose of luring in new audiences, particularly young people and ethnic minorities.
However, a report published last month by the London Assembly's Culture Committee found that only 17 out of every 1,000 tickets sold as part of the promotion were bought by first-time theatregoers, whereas nearly half were scooped up by people who already go to the theatre at least once a month. As for attracting ethnic groups, only 1.6% of the tickets were bought by black people, 4.5% by Chinese and 6.6% by Asians. In light of the findings, Culture Committee chairwoman Meg Hillier criticised the campaign's "woolly objectives" and "questionable claims of success" and said a "fundamental re-examination" was necessary for any future promotions (See The Goss, 31 Mar 2003).
- by Terri Paddock