UKinbound has called on the government to set up a grant system for operators to ensure their future over the winter.
UKinbound is calling for the creation of an Inbound Tourism Resilience Fund and has submitted a proposal to the Treasury that would see tour operators and destination management companies (DMCs) able to apply for a capped grant. This would be based on the level of turnover lost in 2020 and forecast operating costs.
UKinbound said the fund would help businesses wholly reliant on international visitors to survive until the return of the market in spring 2021. It forecasts that unless help is forthcoming, 64% of staff will be redundant “by the end of this year”.
VisitBritain figures show the Covid crisis has brought inbound tourism to a near standstill, with a 76% fall in international visitors throughout 2020 and key markets such as the USA and China closed almost entirely. As a result, the UK economy is projected to lose £457 million a week this year through the loss of visitor spending in the UK.
Inbound operators and DMCs bring in more than half of all international visitors. UKinbound said they face “a precarious future”, with just 17% being confident about the next 12 months and 60% fearing their business will be unable to survive the crisis.
“Previously profitable and sustainable tour operators and DMCs have been hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic as they are reliant on international visitors for business, can’t pivot to domestic and were excluded from crucial support channels, as government does not recognise that the operating conditions of these leisure industry businesses differ from those with an obvious shop window,” UKinbound said.
On average, businesses predict by the end of 2021 their companies will be at 47% of 2019 turnover levels.
The association is also calling for testing and a regionalised approach to quarantine ready to implement when international travel restarts. This, it said, would open up key markets such as the US, where there is strong evidence of pent-up demand for travel to the UK.
Joss Croft, UKinbound chief executive, said: “Since March, we have seen the number of international visitors fall off a cliff, with the government’s delays on testing and a blunt quarantine policy halting a summer recovery and costing businesses millions in lost revenue.
“It is essential that the government provide targeted support to the UK’s 200-plus inbound tour operators and DMCs who have been left in the cold by existing government support schemes, leaving many facing an uncertain future.”