Coronavirus: Extra UK bank holiday for October could be considered

An October bank holiday could help Britain’s tourism industry to recover as it is set to lose billions of pounds due to coronavirus, a select committee has heard.

Patricia Yates, the acting chief executive of Visit Britain, said the industry had lost the benefit of the two May bank holidays due to the lockdown.

She added an October break could help extend the holiday season beyond the summer months.

Ms Yates said 2020 has to be the “year of domestic tourism” but there will be a serious challenge in convincing people it is safe to travel.

Other leaders in the sector also told of a lack of confidence among people even when it comes to travel within the UK.

Losses are being felt from the sharp decline in visitors in international and domestic markets and there is a worry that more businesses will go under in the autumn, the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee heard.

Ms Yates, giving estimates of how much the industry had lost due to the missed bank holidays, told the committee: “Every time we do the modelling the figures get worse.

“So for inbound, I mean we were looking at the beginning of this year at about £26.6bn coming from inbound tourism – we reckon a £15bn drop on that.

“And for domestic, an industry that’s normally worth about £80bn, a £22bn drop on that.”

She said those figures were before the impact of any quarantine measures yet to be introduced were factored in.

Patricia Yates, the acting chief executive of Visit Britain, has said the tourism industry will lose billions

Patricia Yates, the acting chief executive of Visit Britain, has said the tourism industry will likely lose billions

Ms Yates said there is a “a real job to be done there in convincing people that it’s socially responsible to travel and enjoy a holiday, and that it’s safe to do so”.

Her comments were echoed by Ros Pritchard, director general of the British Holiday and Home Park Association, who said there had been cases of “vigilantes” in some communities nervous of people visiting after weeks of tourists being told to stay away.

She said: “When we’ve got holiday parks, say with NHS workers because we’ve been accommodating key workers when we could, we’ve had vigilantes checking up and reporting them to the council and the police – who are these people on your holiday park, what are they doing there?

“That negative, anti-feeling is going to be an issue.”

She added government leadership is required for the message to switch from telling people to stay at home to encouraging visitors.

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Samantha Richardson, director at the National Coastal Tourism Academy, said 7% of businesses in coastal communities have closed permanently and that estimates suggest as much as 25% of accommodation will be lost along the coast as a direct result of the pandemic.

Hilary McGrady, director general of the National Trust, said the estimated impact of COVID-19 to the charity is set to be a cost of “about £200m” this year.

The trust closed all properties on 20 March.

While she said the parks and gardens will be first to reopen, National Trust houses are unlikely to reopen before late August.

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Ms Yates said Visit Britain was already looking at stepping up marketing in Ireland, which will be exempt from the quarantine measures regarding international travel.

She added that arrangements between certain countries where quarantine rules might not apply was an “interesting” idea, citing France, Germany, Italy and Spain as particularly important markets.

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