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Fears for tourists in London as acid attacks escalate in recent weeks

  • A tide of acid attacks in London in recent weeks has led to fears for the safety of tourists.
  • On Monday, a tourist believed to be from Qatar was sprayed with corrosive liquid.
  • The Saudi Arabian embassy reportedly issued a warning and advice to tourists in the capital on Friday.

A tide of acid attacks in London in recent weeks has led to fears for the safety of members of the public – including tourists.

On Monday, a tourist believed to be from Qatar was sprayed with corrosive liquid. The attackers took off with his expensive watch and phone before speeding off on a moped.

Rudi Tapper | E+ | Getty Images

The number of acid-related crimes in the British capital leaped dramatically last year to 454 from 261 in 2015 – a 74 percent rise – according to the Metropolitan Police. Updated figures released by the London police force show that 282 incidents have taken place this year so far.

The attacks involve corrosive substances being used to physically maim people. Motives for the criminal acts have become increasingly arbitrary in recent weeks, and experts say they have become an effective replacement for knives as a choice of weapon.

Knife crime is also a prevalent issue for the city.

Warnings to tourists

The Saudi Arabian embassy issued a warning and advice to tourists in the capital on Friday, according to the Saudi newspaper Arab News.

"We call upon visiting citizens and residents to exercise caution and avoid walking in alleys and dark places," the Saudi embassy said, according to the paper.

The embassy also urged Saudi tourists to avoid carrying valuable items, and to inform police and the embassy in the event of an attack.

CNBC has been unsuccessful in calling the embassy for a comment.

Bystanders can play 'an important role'

Medical specialists in the U.K. have also issued a caution and advice, in an attempt to raise public awareness of the attacks.

Johann Grundlingh, consultant emergency physician, Jessie Payne, trainee in emergency medicine, and Taj Hassan, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, co-wrote an editorial highlighting their concerns and offering advice.

"Bystanders who come to the aid of the victim of an attack can have an important role in minimising further injury," they wrote in the British Medical Journal.

Morning aerial view on London skyline from One Canada Square Tower aka Canary Wharf.
Pawel Libera | LightRocket | Getty Images
Morning aerial view on London skyline from One Canada Square Tower aka Canary Wharf.

They urged bystanders to remove victims from exposure as soon as possible and apply "copious" amounts of water on the affected area, "to minimize the long-term effects of scarring and need for surgical reconstruction."

No immediate impact on tourism industry

A tourism analyst told CNBC that acid attacks have not had a negative impact on the tourism industry despite Monday's attack involving a tourist.

"We have not been able to see any negative impact on travel to the U.K. as a consequence of news reports of acid attacks," Olivier Jager, CEO of ForwardKeys, told CNBC via email.

The company monitors over 17 million flight booking transactions a day.

Jager added: "To the contrary, travel from the GCC (gulf) countries has shown strong growth, with bookings up 16 percent this July, compared to July 2016."