The Tourism Minister, John Penrose, today announced a plan to breathe life into the tourism industry, thus creating oodles of new jobs.
He doesn't seem to have considered the impact traffic has on tourism. London should be a tourist magnet, with its wealth of heritage, world-class dining, museums, shops, theatres, and so forth. However, go to some of the iconic London landmarks, such as Westminster Palace, or Buckingham Palace, and they are not places to linger. Buck House in particular is in the middle of a veritable racetrack. Parliament Square, Brian Haw aside, is simply a traffic island. Victoria Embankment is a motorway, driving people away from one of the City's finest assets - the river. (Compare this with the thriving, and traffic free, South Bank).
Not only is the presence of large volumes of noisy motor traffic a deterrent to tourists staying around and enjoying the best the city has to offer, congestion can make getting to and around the city an experience hardly likely to leave the visitor with a feeling of "must-come-again".
The Cycle Hire scheme should be a massive boost to tourism. Cycling around a city enables you to stop at will at anything that takes your interest, be it a cafe, a theatre, a church, a shop or a park. This is an experience only the brave and adventurous tourist will dare to savour in central London, where motor traffic dominates even the smaller streets, and the maze of one-way and no-entry signs will confuse, confound and befuddle the average visitor.
If John Penrose is serious about boosting tourism, he should have a word with his colleagues Philip Hammond at the Department of Transport and Mayor Boris, about the fact that unrestricted motor traffic is holding London's tourist trade back.