This Monday we launched a campaign and research report in central London to highlight the value of inbound tourism and the need for targeted support.
This wonderful capital city of ours should have been teeming with visitors and foreign voices – however, with boarded up shop fronts and devoid of tourists, London in fact had an almost post-apocalyptic feel to it, shorn of its regular commuters and international tourists.
This new lockdown brings to light the stark fragility of the UK’s current tourism industry. Uncertainty is crippling businesses across the tourism supply chain, but we know there is pent-up demand to travel again when it’s safe to do so. Recovery may seem like a long way away right now, but it will come.
Since March, the UK’s £28 billion inbound tourism industry has virtually ground to a standstill and although domestic and outbound tourism businesses experienced something of a summer season, it was seriously down due to Covid-19 capacity restrictions and changing regulations.
The industry is still operating in survival mode, as suggested by our recent research, which showed that tour operators and DMCs have seen their turnover drop by an average of 91% in 2020, compared with 2019.
Yes, we welcome the chancellor’s extension to the furlough scheme, which will be a lifeline to many, but hundreds of tourism businesses that don’t have an obvious shop front continue to be excluded from grant and rate relief schemes.
This is why the government urgently needs to engage with representatives from all sectors of the industry, as targeted support is vital.
But business survival and recovery go hand-in-hand, which is why now more than ever we need a clear path to reopen our borders. There seems to be momentum behind the case for testing being one way we can manage the virus. And from a travel perspective, the removal of quarantine has to happen, but it does need replacing with a testing system that is competitive.
Discussions with government officials and ministers continue, but I fear job losses and drops in turnover are now considered an inevitable side effect of this terrible pandemic, with government more predisposed to hear how our industry can be the problem solver and can significantly support the UK’s economic recovery.
With a consumer-friendly testing scheme on and/or before arrival and with a resilient travel industry, the demand from 2020 and new demand for 2021 will mean that we all actively play our part in Britain’s future economic success.
Our industry already does that – we employ more young people and more women than most industries; our businesses operate across the breadth and width of the whole UK, our corporation tax, our VAT (and in the case of inbound, the £28 billion in export earnings) all help pay for the UK’s essential services.
We now need to drive home the message to government that we will significantly aid the UK’s economic recovery - but only if we’re supported now in a targeted way and there is a clear plan in place to remove current barriers to businesses.