The government must stage an “aggressive and urgent” intervention and introduce measures to protect the travel, tourism and hospitality sectors from the “devastating effects” of the coronavirus.
UKinbound’s plea comes ahead of government plans to step up its response to the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak, with an address led by chancellor Rishi Sunak expected on Tuesday (17 March).
Sunak’s measures announced in last week’s Budget statement were welcomed by the trade, but Monday’s escalation in the government’s response to the crisis – which involves advising people to avoid pubs, bars, restaurants, clubs, theatres and venues – is expected to have forced the treasury to pledge more cash for businesses in the UK.
According to UKinbound, the UK’s inbound tourist sector contributed nearly £23 billion to the UK economy in 2018 – and was the country’s third largest employer.
UKinbound’s demands include: guidance on how businesses can apply for business interruption loans; extending rate relief to medium and large businesses, not just to SMEs; and deferring corporation tax, VAT, PAYE and other tax payments for a minimum of 12 months.
Other proposed measures include compensating employees in tourism and hospitality who have been temporarily laid off, forced to take unpaid leave, or placed on reduced salaries, and suspending the requirement for tour operators to refund customers who cannot travel and instead issue credit notes valid for 12 months.
Joss Croft, UKinbound chief executive, said: “These are desperate and unprecedented times, and the only way of ensuring the survival of our vital industry, that employs one in 12 people across all parts of the UK, now is with government support.
“The UK’s tourism and hospitality industry simply has no revenue stream or working capital with which to sustain itself, and so we hope that the chancellor’s announcement today [Tuesday] about further financial support for the economy will include our sector.
“Additionally, any support packages must be rolled out and available immediately with absolutely clear guidance; tourism businesses have days, not weeks, in which to survive.”