The UK government has been urged to make grants available to inbound travel companies in England to help them survive through the winter to spring 2021.
With the UK inbound market still yet to reopen this summer due to the pandemic and government yet to set a date for this to happen, the sector has again called for urgent financial support over the next few months.
UKinbound’s chief executive Joss Croft said many of its members based in England had been unable to claim grants earlier in the pandemic because they did not cater for people on their own premises.
“A lot of intermediaries and tour operators missed out on leisure and hospitality grants because they don’t have people on their premises,” explained Croft. “We would like to see grants for operators who have not access to them before.”
UKinbound is also calling for the extension of the furlough scheme, which is currently due to end in September, until March 2022 for the sector.
The association released research showing that 95% of 2021 inbound tourism businesses has been lost to competitor destinations. Estimates also show that the industry has been losing £78 million per day due to having virtually no business since the Covid crisis started in March 2020.
“75% of our members have still got employees on furlough – far higher than the average,” added Croft. “International travel is not opening in the short-term.”
UKinbound held its #SaveInboundTourism event onboard a boat in central London on Tuesday (20 July), as the association attempts to put more pressure on the government to set a date for the reopening of inbound international travel and push for more financial support.
Croft added that UKinbound members were “effectively facing their fifth consecutive winter” until the spring of 2022 due to the impact of the pandemic.
He called for the UK government to provide a similar level of financial support in England to neighbouring countries, including Scotland where DMCs and operators have received grants from the Scottish government.
“Things are getting really desperate,” he said. “It seems so unfair that while the rest of the economy is opening up, inbound tourism is not getting the chance to play its part in the recovery.”
Emmanuelle Spriet, founder of E-Voyages Group, agreed that the inbound industry needed “tailored” grants and an extension to the furlough scheme.
“The government is refusing to give us any support, we’ve been falling through the cracks,” added Spriet. “We’ve had no local authority grants or business rates relief because it’s a postcode lottery and we’re not a public premises.
“The government says it doesn’t want to give sector support, but it has done that for culture and aviation. We’re asking for £47 million for an industry that generates £28.4 billion for the economy. It’s not a big ask.”
Rob Russell, chief executive of AC Group, told TTG the government needed to provide grants rather than loans, which will just add to companies’ debts.
“We need grants not loans, which are just a debt on the business,” he added. “Without support, it’s not going to be possible to grow back quicker.”
Russell said he would like to see the introduction of grants based on a percentage of a company’s 2019 turnover, which have been adopted in other European countries, such as France, Italy and Spain, to support their travel sectors.