TORONTO —The earliest that hotels and other hospitality businesses can reopen in England is July 4, though different reopening dates may apply elsewhere in the U.K., says VisitBritain.
Following a MeetGB Virtual Press Roundtable on June 17, Gavin Landry, VisitBritain Executive Vice President, The Americas, spoke exclusively to Travelweek about the impact the pandemic has had on local tourism and what safety protocols international travellers can expect once tourism resumes.
Tourism and business events, not surprisingly, have been one of the first and hardest hit economic sectors. With global travel largely at a standstill, VisitBritain has already planned for the likelihood that the destination will not see international visitors in any great numbers until later this year.
“Our latest modelling, which factors in a three-week quarantine, forecasts a £19.7 billion loss to the economy from inbound tourism in terms of visitor spending,” says Landry. “Much of course depends on how long a quarantine remains in place and whether exemptions are extended.”
Earlier this month, the U.K. government announced a 14-day quarantine for all arrivals in the U.K., which was introduced on June 8. Since then, three airlines – British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair – have launched legal action against the government, arguing the mandatory quarantine will be a major blow to tourism and the economy.
The safety measure, which has been implemented by other destinations like Spain, Australia, Hong Kong and Canada, will be subject to review every three weeks, says Landry. It applies to both residents and visitors arriving into the U.K. (except a short list of exemptions), no matter the mode of transport, requiring them to inform border force authorities of where they will be staying during their 14-day self-isolation.
Keeping residents and tourists safe while at the same time reopening the economy will be a precarious balancing act for all destinations, not just the U.K. But in the U.K. specifically, where inbound tourism – its third largest service export – accounted for more than £28 billion to the economy last year, the impact of the pandemic has been particularly devastating.
“Tourism is one of the U.K.’s most successful economic sectors, an industry worth £127 billion annually to the economy, employing 3.1 million people and supporting 200,000 small businesses and entrepreneurs right across the country, and is the main employer in many coastal towns and rural communities,” adds Landry. “VisitBritain’s latest tourism impact forecasts for 2020 show that inbound tourism spending is now forecast to drop 63% this year, equalling a £19.7 billion loss to the economy, while domestic tourism in Britain is forecast to lose £22 billion in spending across holidays and day visits alone.”
It’s clear that reopening the tourism sector will be essential to the economy, though the government will not do so until strict health and safety protocols are implemented. Official guidance is currently being developed for the tourism industry and will be published by the U.K. government as soon as possible. In preparation, a ‘roadmap’ has already been announced for reopening businesses and public places that are able to meet COVID-19 secure guidelines.
“We are working across the industry and with the U.K. government to ensure that tourism can recover as quickly as possible once restrictions are lifted, save as much of the valuable summer season as we can and to extend the tourism season in October and beyond,” says Landry, adding that Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales all have different official guidelines and timeframes from England. “While the tourism industry is likely not to reopen in England until early July, the sector is working very hard getting prepared to welcome visitors back.”
These efforts including working on an industry-standard quality mark, which has been asked of VisitBritain by the U.K.’s tourism industry at large. It would provide a “ring of confidence” for tourism and event businesses, attractions, venues and destinations, and reassure visitors, delegates and event planners that businesses have clear processes in place once restrictions are finally lifted.
“This is set to include businesses completing a free online assessment to check they are taking the necessary steps to adhere to the official government guidelines and be provided with a supporting mark they could use as well as a certificate that recognizes they have gone through the process,” he says.
In addition, VisitBritain is also working with international travel trade as part of its future recovery efforts. It’s currently preparing a series of webinars for travel trade partners that would provide the most up-to-date information on travel to Britain and provide updates as hotels and attractions reopen. Ongoing updates will be available on trade.visitbritain.com.
“VisitBritain wants to reassure international travellers, planners and delegates that our planning towards the future recovery continues,” says Landry. “Our priority is to ensure that tourism and business events rebound to once again become one of the most successful sectors of the U.K. economy, and we look forward to welcoming you back to our shores as soon as we possibly can.”
To inspire future travel, go to VisitBritain’s online channels @lovegreatbritain, @eventsaregreat and www.VisitBritain.com.
For the latest updates from the U.K. government, go to: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus.
For COVID-19-related updates in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales go to https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/campaigns/coronavirus-covid-19, https://www.gov.scot/ and https://gov.wales/coronavirus.
For more information on U.K.’s quarantine and public health measures go to https://www.gov.uk/uk-border-control and https://www.gov.uk/government/news/home-secretary-announces-new-public-health-measures-for-all-uk-arrivals.