Record high temperatures in London this summer had a similar impact on visitor footfall as the introduction of “Plan B” pandemic restrictions in December 2021, according to City Hall.
According to new figures from High Streets Data Service, the number of visitors in central London fell to 74 percent of the previous month’s total when temperatures reached 40 degrees in July.
The record temperatures led to the issuing of the UK’s first ever red extreme heat warning indicating a risk to life, which resulted in people being instructed to stay indoors and only travel if necessary.
Speaking at the Reuters Impact Conference on climate change alongside business leaders on Monday, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said this summer’s extreme heat shows there can be “no doubt” that the climate crisis “is now upon us”.
Khan said: “For decades, we’ve known this train has been hurtling in our direction. But it’s only now that it’s finally caught up with us that the sense of crisis is at its most acute.
“On the 19th of July temperatures in our city soared to 40 degrees. For the first time ever, London overheated. Vicious wildfires overwhelmed emergency services. Destroyed homes. And infrastructure was crippled by extreme heat. We also saw a dramatic drop in footfall across central London to the detriment of our businesses.
“When we look back at this period of history no one will be able claim with any credibility that we were not given fair warning – that we could not see disaster bearing down on us.”
On Monday 18 July, when temperatures reached 35 degrees, there were just 385,640 daytime workers in central London compared to the 518,000 that are usually expected. Daytime visitors to central London fell to 275,000 when there would normally be around 361,000.
Speaking with business leaders on Monday, Sadiq Khan called for “collaboration” with the private sector to reach net zero targets and tackle climate change.
Khan said London needed to go “much further, much faster” to achieve the target of net zero by 2030 and that “we simply can’t deliver that without the private sector”.
He urged business leaders to focus on delivering “not just profits for our businesses, but security and prosperity for all”.