Collapse In International Visitors Costing UK Economy £457m A Week

Trade association UKinbound presents targeted funding request to Government

Travel trade organisation UKinbound have 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 until the return of the market in Spring 2021.

This comes as figures show that 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.  As a result of this, the UK economy is projected to be losing £457m a week this year through the loss of visitor spending in the UK.

Throughout the UK, inbound intermediaries, such as tour operators and destination management companies (DMCs), who are responsible for bringing in over half of all international visitors are facing a precarious future, with just 17% being confident about the next twelve months and 60% fearing that their business will be unable to survive the crisis.

Previously profitable and sustainable, tour operators and DMCs have been hardest hit by the Coronavirus pandemic as they are reliant on international visitors for business, can’t 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.

As MPs return from the half term recess, UKinbound is calling for the creation of an ‘Inbound Tourism Resilience Fund’  and has submitted a proposal to Treasury which would see tour operators and 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, 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

The proposed fund was created following a survey of 91 inbound tour operators and DMCs, undertaken by UKinbound, Scottish Tourism Alliance, Scottish Destination Management Association and the Scottish Incoming Golf Tour Operators Association, which revealed that:

On average turnover will drop by 91% in 2020 compared to 2019 numbers

  • 64% of staff that work for tour operators and DMCs will be made redundant by the end of the year, if no further support is provided
  • On average businesses predict that by the end of 2021 their companies will be at 47% of their 2019 turnover levels

The association is also calling for the Government to work with industry to introduce a best in class 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 USA, where there is strong evidence of pent up demand for travel to the UK.

Joss Croft, CEO, UKinbound said “The UK economy is losing £457m each week as a result of the fall in international visitor numbers, which highlights how a failure to support this industry will hold back our national economic recovery.

“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 provide 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.”

Emmanuelle Spriet-Toussaint – CEO E-Voyages Ltd added “What our industry needs right now – for the good of the nation, particularly in the regions and to protect jobs – is to replace quarantine with testing before and at arrival; the rate reliefs and grants the Chancellor promised in March but never delivered; and the creation of a Tourism Resilience Fund to ensure we survive long enough to start supporting the economy again.”

Chris Foy, Chief Executive VisitAberdeenshire said “The very survival of DMCs is critical to protect jobs and businesses throughout the travel and tourism supply chain. Within North-east Scotland alone, over 150 tourism businesses have invested heavily in developing products that are ready to meet demands of DMCs and their clients. Many cannot simply rely on pivoting towards domestic business if long term recovery and growth is to be achieved.”