UK tourism industry leaders convened an emergency meeting to discuss responses to Wednesday’s terror attack as it emerged that at least one foreign tourist had been killed on Westminster Bridge.
VisitBritain put an immediate hold on all marketing activity in the wake of the atrocity, the Tourism Industry Emergency Response Group heard.
The tourism organisation is to closely monitor overseas markets for reactions to Wednesday’s attack.
US traveller Kurt Cochran from Utah died and his wife Melissa was seriously hurt as the attacker mowed down pedestrians.
They were struck when the attacker drove a car at speed over the bridge towards the Houses of Parliament.
So-called Islamic State claimed responsibility the attack, which left five people dead, including the attacker. Eight people have so far been arrested.
Other victims have been named as police officer Keith Palmer and Aysha Frade, who worked at a London college.
French students were among the 40 casualties treated in hospital together with a Romanian couple – one who fell from the bridge during the attack – four South Koreans, one German, one Pole, one Irish, one Chinese, one Italian and two Greeks.
The attacker was British-born and known to the police and intelligence services. He has been named as Khalid Masood.
The emergency meeting chaired by VisitBritain was told that the immediate reaction had been “muted” from key regions such as the US and Middle East.
But there have been concerns raised about school groups from France and the Netherlands following press coverage.
VisitBritain aims to resume marketing activity as soon as possible but is taking a “market by market” approach.
The tourism body called on partners to report any business impact over the next few days.
The industry was urged to follow the lead taken by prime minister Theresa May and London mayor Sadiq Khan in public statements, stressing the priority of public safety while the capital remains open for business and continues to welcome international visitors.
The capital attracts up to 20 million visitors a year, making it among the top three most visited destinations in the world. Tourism to Paris has been hard hit in the wake of recent terror attacks.
Olivier Jager, CEO of travel intelligence firm ForwardKeys, told CNN: “I think we will see an obvious and quite logical situation of travellers changing their trip plans.”
However, disruption to the tourism industry will be minimised if authorities can show this was an unco-ordinated, one-off event.
“We’ll need to give it a couple of days to see if this might truly impact inbound London [travel],” he said. “I think travellers are a little bit more used to the fact that these things might happen.”
UKinbound said: “We are shocked and saddened by the incident at Westminster on March 22, and our thoughts are with the families of those who died and those injured in the attack.
“The prime minister and the mayor of London have said that their prime focus will be to ensure the safety and security of the public and that London remains open for business.
“UKinbound is working closely with industry partners and government to ensure that London continues to be an open and welcoming destination for visitors from across the globe.”
The European Tour Operators Association stressed that London remains open and said: “This incident has to be viewed in context. Anywhere there are cars, fatalities occur. In terms of traffic safety, Britain happens to be a world leader.
“The intentional nature of this incident makes it newsworthy. It does not make the UK any less safe. It will still be one of the safest countries in the world to be a pedestrian. It will still be one of the safest countries on earth to visit.”