London In Lockdown And Future Of The Travel Industry

Mr Bean in London
Mr Bean wondering why this person is not social distancing

As the UK moves into what is now Week 5 of lockdown, many of us are wondering not only when the lockdown will be lifted or at least eased, and we can get back to work but also what will life be like post-coronavirus.

All eyes are now on European countries such as Germany and Denmark who are beginning to ease their lockdown and restrictions on daily life and even letting younger children go back to school.

Seven Dials in lockdown
An empty Seven Dials in Covent Garden
A deserted Bond Street in lockdown
A deserted Bond Street
A completely empty Oxford Street
A completely empty Oxford Street

Of course if a vaccine can be found quickly, life should return to near normality, but if it can’t, we will no doubt have some long-lasting restrictions placed upon us, such as keeping social distancing in public places and possibly having to wear face masks on public transport.

Whilst almost no industry has been left unaffected by the crises, it is the travel and hospitality industry that has perhaps been affected the most. It was the first to be effectively shut down and will no doubt be the last to have restrictions lifted on it with restaurants and bars probably being the final places allowed to open again.

A deserted South Bank in lockdown
A deserted South Bank
Park benches taped off
Park benches taped off
Walking towards the OXO Tower
Walking towards the OXO Tower

It leaves us in the industry wondering who will survive and what will the industry look like post-coronavirus. How many restaurants, bars and shops will never open again and how many travel companies will be put out of business? Will the high street as we know it survive? It was already in dire need of life support; will this crisis be the final straw as more and more people get used to shopping online. Let’s hope not.

Governments currently seem reluctant to help struggling airlines, with Virgin Australia going into administration today and Virgin Atlantic seeking up to £500 million in government support. The Virgin Group employs more than 70,000 employees, many of whom may lose their job. Even British Airways is warning that they may not survive unless the government steps in to help the struggling airline industry.

Front line M&S Staff
Front line M&S Staff
A tightly closed Dorchester Hotel
A tightly closed Dorchester Hotel on Park Lane
A cheerful staff member of The Athenaeum on Piccadilly
A cheerful staff member of The Athenaeum on Piccadilly

Over in South Africa, South African Airlines is preparing to lay off its entire workforce of 4,700 if is unable to secure additional funding from the government, although it had problems long before the coronavirus took hold. While in Asia, Cathay Pacific is looking to lay off around 300 cabin crew. In the United States, United Airlines has lost $2.1 billion in the first quarter of 2020 due to the lack of passengers since the coronavirus outbreak.

Many hotels around the world are now closed with the vast majority of employees in the UK being furloughed; others have skeleton staff living in to look after a few long-term residents and keep things ticking over, such as The Athenaeum on Piccadilly and The Dorchester on Park Lane photographed here, but again, we wonder how many hotels will not manage to survive this crisis.

A lonely Paddington Bear
A lonely Paddington Bear
An empty bridge across The Thames
An empty bridge across The Thames
A completely deserted South Bank
A completely deserted South Bank

There is no doubt that every one of us will feel the long-lasting effects of this crisis for years to come thanks to the immense economic fallout. Many of us can’t quite believe what is happening. Once buzzing streets are now empty with many shops boarded up, not knowing when they will be allowed to open again, and once bustling streets and roads all but empty, not to mention virtually no planes flying overhead.

We therefore thought we would share these incredible yet somewhat eerie images of what the streets of London look like under the current lockdown. I don’t think any of us could have imagined an empty South Bank, a deserted Oxford Street or park benches taped off.

Editorial by Simon Burrell, Editor of Our Man On The Ground and photographs by Jonathan Kemp, a London-based photographer and photo journalist specialising in portrait and event photography.

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