Culture secretary Oliver Dowden has said the government won’t risk the health of the nation by allowing domestic tourism to resume promptly this summer if it cannot be done safely.
Quizzed at the government’s daily coronavirus briefing on Wednesday (20 May) on whether people would be able to take a domestic holiday this summer, Dowden said the government was "working hard" to get the country’s tourism sector up and running as quickly as possible – potentially by the start of July.
However, Dowden said the government would only give domestic tourism the green light to resume "if it is safe to do so", stressing the worst outcome for British tourism businesses would be for them to resume operations only to have to "slam on the brakes" if the rate of coronavirus infection starts to rise again.
Dowden’s comments came after the government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) announced on Wednesday the formation of a new Cultural Renewal Taskforce, which Dowden said would bring together experts – including figures from the tourism sector – to advise on restarting Britain’s recreation and leisure sector.
The taskforce will support DCMS sectors, and help develop new "Covid-19 secure guidelines" for reopening public places and businesses – where and when safe.
At Wednesday’s briefing, the Daily Mail’s Jason Groves asked Dowden if there was any chance of people getting a holiday in Britain this summer, and if so, whether the government would encourage people to take staycations.
"I’d love to get the tourism sector up as quickly as we possibly can," said Dowden. "We’ve set this very ambitious plan to try to get it up and running by the beginning of July. We’re working hard to be able to deliver on that.
"Clearly, we can only do it if it’s safe to do so. I think the worst thing for our tourism sector would be to start then see the R [infection] rate rise out of control and see a second peak overwhelm the NHS so we have to slam on the brakes again.
"But believe me, when we get to the point when we can have British tourism back, apart perhaps from the prime minister, you won’t find a bigger champion of the great British break than me."
TTG will host its first Domestic Tourism seminar on Thursday from 2pm. Head over to our dedicated Domestic Tourism microsite to register.