The UK tourism industry could lobby the government for an extra bank holiday in October, to extend the season, as it predicts the sector will take a £37bn hit from Covid-19.
Patricia Yates, the acting chief executive of the official tourist agency VisitBritain, believes there will be a £15bn drop in income from visitors coming to Britain from overseas, combined with a £22bn impact from lost domestic tourism.
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At the start of the year, before the pandemic struck Europe, VisitBritain had estimated the sector’s income to reach £106bn.
“Every time we do the modelling, the figures get worse,” Yates told MPs on the Commons digital, culture, media and sport committee.
The predicted slump in income for the UK’s tourist sector does not include the impact of a possible 14-day quarantine for all visitors coming to Britain.
The tourist organisation welcomed the extension of the government furlough scheme to support businesses in the sector, which often depends on the summer season for most of its annual income.
Yates told MPs that usually businesses in the tourism sector would have begun trading around Easter, and would therefore need to extend their season beyond September to try to recoup some of the lost trade.
“Because the industry has lost the benefit of the two May bank holidays, I think that’s an idea that is being considered, to have an October bank holiday around half-term, because what we are going to need to do is generate people not just in July and August,” she said.
Foreign travel restrictions are expected to remain in place for some time, and the British tourism sector hopes income from domestic visitors will partially replace money that would have been spent by foreign tourists, although Yates cautioned that Britons were still reluctant to travel within the UK.
“Given that it has to be the year of domestic tourism, there’s a real job to be done there in convincing people that it is socially responsible to travel and enjoy a holiday, and that it is safe to do so,” Yates said.
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