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Raising the drawbridge on inbound tourism - Ed's letter

The news, due to be confirmed later today, that fully-vaccinated travellers from the EU and US will have their vaccinations recognised in England and won’t have to self isolate on arrival, is a huge relief to families who have been separated over the past 18 months, or subject to shocking test charges and lengthy quarantines.

It is also good news for those who would deal in inbound tourism. Joss Croft, CEO, UKInbound, told the FT: “We are running out of road. Tourism in the UK, particularly outside London, is very seasonal so now we only have possibly August and a bit of September before we are into autumn and winter again.”

He also spoke about the “prohibitive” cost of testing, although it is thought that the much-missed US travellers - currently free to roam around the EU - would not be put off by what could be more than £1,000 for a family of four.

Earlier this month UKinbound submitted a proposal to Treasury for a Tourism Export Recovery Fund, which would allow inbound tour operators and DMCs to apply for a capped grant award based on their 2019 revenue levels.

This investment, totalling £47 million for the UK’s c. 230 tour operators and DMCs – and which is less than 60% of UK’s daily export earnings loss – would enable these businesses to survive until inbound tourism can safely resume at sustainable levels.

The proposal also calls for an extension to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme until April 2022. With 77% of tour operator and DMC staff still on furlough, the removal of the scheme from 1 October will, the organisation said, be devastating for the sector.

Many inbound businesses particularly tour operators and DMCs, have been excluded from previous Government support schemes due to their B2B nature, and now face a second year with no revenue and virtually no financial support.

Croft said: “2022 will shine a global spotlight on the UK as we host and celebrate the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, Festival UK 2022, and the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, and presents a fantastic opportunity for the UK to showcase its world-class welcome and tourism offer. Tourism can deliver the government’s Global Britain agenda, but the country will not be able to reap the full financial and reputational benefits without a successful inbound tourism sector in place to convert pent-up demand into bookings. These businesses promote, sell and funnel business and revenue to all corners of the country, and through multiple sectors.”

With the sector reopening, is it ready? Staffing remains the key issue, with the current rules on self isolation not due to change until 16 August and, in any case, not applying unless you are fully vaccinated, not a feature of hospitality’s youthful front line.

The hope - and the government’s assumption throughout the pandemic - is that hospitality will struggle through somehow. The stress of trying to meet visitors’ expectations while understaffed will be enormous, but there will be joy in being able to deliver hospitality again.

But with the government eager to put All This behind them, the sector would be well placed to remember what happened when it needed support and found it lacking.


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