Travel trade association UKinbound has launched a fresh call to save inbound tourism through the creation of an ‘inbound tourism resilience fund' to help businesses wholly reliant on international visitors to survive.
UKinbound, which represents more than 300 businesses, has submitted a proposal to the Treasury which would see tour operators and destination management companies (DMCs) able to apply for a capped grant award fund 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 and transport providers, will fail. • Regional destinations that rely on tour operators and DMCs to bring in 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.
A survey of 91 inbound tour operators and DMCs found that 64% of staff that work for these businesses will be made redundant by the end of the year if no further support is provided.
The association is also calling for the government to work with industry to introduce a testing system and a regionalised approach to quarantine that is ready to implement when international travel restarts. This would open up key markets such as the US, where there is strong evidence of pent-up demand for travel to the UK.
The call comes as figures show that the Covid-19 crisis has brought export industry inbound tourism to a near standstill, with a 76% (VisitBritain) fall in international visitors throughout 2020, and key markets such as the US and China closed almost entirely. As a result of this, the UK economy is projected to lose £457m a week this year through the loss of visitor spending in the UK.
Throughout the UK, inbound intermediaries that are responsible for bringing in over half of all international visitors are facing a precarious future, with just 17% being confident about the next 12 months and 60% fearing that their business will be unable to survive the crisis.
Joss Croft, chief executive of UKinbound, said: "Since March, we have seen the number of international visitors fall off a cliff, with the government's delays on testing and a blunt quarantine policy halting a summer recovery and costing businesses millions in lost revenue.
"It is essential that the government provides targeted support to the UK's 200-plus inbound tour operators and DMCs, who have been left in the cold by existing government support schemes, leaving many facing an uncertain future.
"These businesses will be vital to bringing back international visitors to the UK and to ensuring that tourism in the UK can make its vital contribution to our economic recovery from the pandemic.
"Without this support, we risk pushing international visitors to other European destinations once international travel restarts, causing irrevocable damage to the communities and regions who rely on tourism and leaving the government's Global Britain ambitions in tatters."