Covid could cost the West End’s arts and culture sector £4.7bn in 2024 – a decrease of 97% in annual gross value added, compared with 2019, according to a new worst-case-scenario report from Arup.
The figures are based on a year-long strict lockdown with offices and venues shut.
Commissioned by the Heart of London Business Alliance and undertaken by Arup, the report shows that there could be a total loss of £18.5bn in the period from 2020 to 2024 – some 73% lower than what would have likely been generated had the pandemic not happened.
If London continues to be impacted by “seasonal outbreaks” of Covid-19, says the report, it could cost the West End’s economy £15bn between 2020 and 2024, a loss of 59% compared to what would have happened in a no-Covid scenario.
Arup’s analysis finds that even in a return to “normality of sorts”, the pandemic would result in total GVA generated between 2020 and 2024 being 21% below the figures if the pandemic had not occurred.
Ros Morgan, chief executive of Heart of London Business Alliance, said: “Central London has so much to offer in terms of culture, retail and leisure. But for it to be there for us in the good times, we need to be there for it the bad times. Central London’s dynamic businesses and rich culture and experiences are not merely job creators: they make the West End unique and special place, and they are critical to the UK’s global competitiveness.”
Professor Tony Travers, director of LSE London, added: “Until people can once again feel confident about meeting others in public, using trains and socialising in public, city centres face a bleak future. And if the core of the West End fails, it will have a series of knock-on effects for the whole of the UK.
“The United Kingdom’s soft power depends on the heart of London. People from all over the world feel they know the sights and sounds of the West End. The damage caused by an unmitigated assault from Covid-19 would not simply mean that a few theatres, cinemas and restaurants had closed. Britain’s glorious remarkable and unique culture would be damaged forever.”