Coronavirus: UK Economy Loses up to £2.5 billion during Christmas

Today UKinbound, a leading travel trade association representing over 300 tourism businesses, has released projections that show that the collapse in international visitors could cost the UK economy up to £2.5 billion over the Christmas period.

Last December, just under 3.5 million international visitors came to the UK contributing around £2.5 billion through spending in shops, restaurants, hotels, and tourism destinations. Since March, the COVID-19 crisis has brought export industry inbound tourism to a near standstill, with a 76% (Source VisitBritain) fall in international visitors throughout 2020, and key markets such as the USA and China closed almost entirely.

Inbound tour operators and destination management companies (DMCs), who are responsible for bringing in over half of all international visitors, are on the brink with 60% fearing that their business will be unable to survive the crisis. Their collapse will hamper the UK’s economic recovery which is why UKinbound is calling for 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. Without this support, it is believed that:

  • Sectors that rely on tour operators and DMCs to bring in business, including attractions, hospitality, retail, hotels and transport providers would fail
  • Regional destinations that rely on tour operators and DMCs to bring visitors will lose out on valuable income, putting tens of thousands of jobs at risk and impeding the Government’s levelling up agenda
  • Pent-up demand and future business will be lost to competitor destinations

Ireland and several EU countries have already announced a set of specific support measures for the industry, but Westminster have yet to come up with targeted support, and the rate relief and grants the Chancellor promised in March have still not been delivered.

Previously profitable and sustainable, tour operators and DMCs have been hardest hit by the Coronavirus pandemic, cannot 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. 

The association is also calling for the Government to work with industry to introduce rapid and pre-departure testing, alongside the urgent introduction of regional travel corridors to key markets such as the USA, where there is strong evidence of pent-up demand for travel to the UK.

Joss Croft, CEO, UKinbound 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.”

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