LONDON Mayor
Ken Livingstone is flying to New York as the two cities struggle to rescue
their beleaguered tourism industries.

He is
planning a morale-boosting trip early next year in a show of unity with the stricken
city and to discuss ways of restoring confidence in transatlantic travel.

Livingstone,
speaking to Travel Weekly during a whirlwind visit to World Travel Market,
described London and New York “like sisters”.

“Nowhere
in the world is there a relationship between two cities like London and New
York,” he said. “There is a unique bond.”

The Mayor,
warmly greeted by tourist officials from both cities during his hour-long visit
to Earl’s Court, has written to his New York counterpart Rudolph Giuliani
expressing his horror at Monday’s American Airlines tragedy and pledged to
visit ground zero in the new year.

“New
York has endured a torrid time and London – and the UK as a whole – will be as
supportive as it can,” he added.

“I
intend to visit New York as part of a trade event to restore confidence to the
industry.”

However,
Livingstone said it was impossible to predict when the US market would return
and stressed it was now vital for London’s tourism industry to target domestic
travellers

“The US
market is crucial, especially for central London,” he said. “Some
companies have seen a 50% drop in sales and they cannot survive a hit like that
for long. We have to get Brits from Newcastle and Cardiff to fill the gap. If
we manage to do that, we can survive this.”

To boost
domestic tourism, the Mayor has pledged £500,000 to offer cut-price theatre and
restaurant packages while the London Tourist Board is also set to receive
£500,000 – originally allocated for promotion overseas – to launch a UK
campaign.

Livingstone
is also spearheading a London Tourist Action Group which will inject £3 million
into helping tourism-reliant companies cope with the crisis.

“There
is a genuine threat to jobs this year and next and we need to do whatever we
can to assist,” he said.