London Mayor Boris Johnson was in Covent Garden today to promote West End It's Time, a new initiative aimed at getting more tourists and shoppers to visit central London as part of their money-saving 'staycation', which will run throughout May and June.

The 50-day event will offer £1million of free events including concerts, traffic-free days and prize draws. Also included is West End Live, the now annual event which sees a host of West End shows performing a free open-air concert in Leicester Square (See News, 17 Jun 2008), which will be held this year on the 20 and 21 June.

To launch the initiative, the Mayor posed for pictures with the cast of Priscilla Queen of the Desert the Musical in the Covent Garden Piazza. He said of the scheme: “It is immensely encouraging to see West End businesses coming together to ensure we keep attracting shoppers and tourists into town during these tough times … It is vital that we all continue shouting from the rooftops that the West End is a great day out whether filling your shopping bags, visiting a show, or grabbing a meal.” 

A joint initiative between the London's West End Marketing Alliance, Westminster City Council, Visit London and the Mayor of London, West End It's Time is an attempt to answer  criticism that the Mayor wasn't doing enough to support the West End during the recession. Last month business organisation London First send a letter to the Mayor's office from retailers, hotels and other businesses calling on him to do more to promote London as a tourist destination.

This year it is believed that 60 percent of Britons, or 37 million people, are planning a 'staycation' as opposed to a foreign holiday due to the economic downturn.

For more info on West End It's Time visit www.westendtime.com

- by Theo Bosanquet