london_Protestors-clash-with-mou-001While most of central London has been spared from the worst civil unrest to hit the city in decades, the spreading violence has prompted new travel advisories and fears that London's tourist image could take a nosedive less than a year before the the Summer Olympics and Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

The U.S. State Department, via its London embassy, notes that "there have been a large number of civil disturbances throughout Greater London and the current situation remains fluid." Australia, Canada and Germany, among other countries, have urged their citizens to exercise extra caution in the wake of protests that broke out Saturday in London's low-income, multiethnic northern district of Tottenham after the fatal police shooting of Mark Duggan, a 29-year-old father of four.

The subsequent looting and violence has largely taken place outside central London, which is home to Parliament, Buckingham Palace, West End theaters, entertainment districts like SoHo and major tourist hotels. Heathrow and Gatwick airports are also unaffected, though earlier Tuesday some train service between Central London and Gatwick was disrupted because several stations had been closed, says Stephanie Kallab, a European security analyst with iJet, a company that provides advice to corporate travelers.

But Monday night, rioters armed with baseball bats broke into The Ledbury, a two-star Michelin restaurant in the trendy Notting Hill neighborhood, demanding that diners turn over cash and jewelry. The thugs were ousted by staffers wielding rolling pins and fry baskets, reports the London Telegraph. The city's Business Travel Club postponed an event scheduled for Tuesday evening in the Tower Bridge area, where looting was also reported Monday., and several theaters cancelled Tuesday performances.

And Sunday night, police rebuffed a gang of about 50 youths at Oxford Circus, a longstanding tourist attraction at one of the world's great shopping streets, Oxford Street. Other parts of Greater London frequented by tourists -- including Camden, Islington, and Portabello Road -- have experienced violence the past two days.

While VisitBritain has suspended an overseas advertising campaign, "past experience tells us that London recovers very quickly from such events and we will focus on recovery activity as soon as it is viable to do so," marketing and communications director Martine Ainsworth-Wells told Marketing Week.

Meanwhile, Olympic organizers are going ahead this week with a series of test events for the 2012 Games, including a volleyball tournament and cycling competition.

Source: USA Today

And, writes Tom Hall, "from Lonely Planet's London office in Old Street it would have been a marvellous summer's day to be out exploring the city. Many current visitors will be debating whether to leave, and those not here yet may be wondering whether to come. To do either at present would be a shame. Outbreaks of trouble are localised and flare-ups are brief. While the images of the city being beamed around the world are shocking, there's no reason to cancel a visit to London, but plenty of attention to what's going on around the city is necessary."



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