The Covid-driven "collapse" of international visitor numbers to the UK could cost the economy £2.5 billion over the Christmas period, UKinbound has warned as it called for a new fund to support struggling tourism businesses.
The association, which represents more than 300 inbound operators, said the pandemic had caused a 76% fall in international visitors this year fuelled by major source markers in the US and China being “closed almost entirely”.
With around 60% of its members fearing their business will be unable to survive, UKinbound has proposed the creation of an Inbound Tourism Resilience Fund.
The fund would see tour operators and DMCs able to apply for a capped grant, awarded based on the level of turnover lost in 2020 and forecast operating costs.
UKinbound said Ireland and several other EU countries had already announced a set of specific support measures for the sector but powers in Westminster had yet to agree to similar terms.
The association also called on the government to introduce rapid and pre-departure testing to curb the need for quarantine upon entry into the UK and establish “urgent” regional travel corridors to key markets such as the US.
UKinbound chief executive Joss Croft said: “These figures are a stark reminder of the brutal impacts of Covid-19 on the inbound tourism sector, that faces not only a bleak Christmas, but a bleak future without targeted government support.
“Since March, we have seen the number of international visitors fall off a cliff, with the blunt quarantine and the lack of rapid pre-departure testing leaving the UK’s tour operators and DMCs facing an uncertain future, with many unsure whether they will survive 2021, after being left in the cold by existing government support schemes.
“Without further support and the introduction of rapid testing we risk the near total collapse of an inbound tourism industry and pushing international visitors to other European destinations causing irrevocable damage to the communities and regions who rely on tourism and leaving the government’s ‘global Britain’ and levelling up ambitions in tatters.”