The UK’s tourism industry has called for a “clear roadmap” to reopening the sector ahead of an expected tightening of restrictions for incoming travellers tomorrow.
If not, it is feared that tourism businesses could face a similar drop in spending to last year, when they lost an estimated £24.7bn.
Two aviation lobby groups this afternoon said any further tightening of border restrictions “would be catastrophic”.
Ministers are meeting to agree new border controls in a bid to prevent people carrying the disease from entering the country without self-isolating on arrival.
Boris Johnson has confirmed that mandatory hotel quarantine for arrivals from overseas is one such proposal being mulled.
But a source in the aviation sector told City A.M. that the industry was in the dark as to how such measures would be put in place.
“There is a lot of specific detail on how any of this is going to be implemented that is missing. Your guess is as good as mine”, they said.
Joss Croft, chief executive of tourism body UK Inbound, said that although public health was “paramount”, the government needs “to consider the implications for the inbound tourism industry”.
Ministers “need to put in place a clear roadmap to reopening the sector when it’s safe to do so and provide targeted support for businesses.”
“Only when quarantine is abolished will the tourism industry be able to begin its full recovery, but we need more support to ensure businesses survive to play their role and that the UK does not lose out to its competitors”, he added.
Last year was a devastating year for the UK tourism industry, with industry representatives Visit Britain estimating that inbound tourism spending dropped 80 per cent due to the restrictions.
That amounts to a £24.7bn loss to the economy, the body said.
It added that its “Good to Go” standard meant hotels and other tourism businesses would be ready to welcome visitors back as soon as the new restrictions are lifted.
Karen Dee, head of the Airport Operators Association, and Tim Alderslade, who runs Airlines UK said:
“We have fully supported the Government to do what is right in the face of this pandemic, but policy should be based on evidence and there must be a roadmap out of these restrictions as soon as it is safe.
“The impact of further measures would be catastrophic. They will impact vital freight and PPE supplies and jeopardise tens of thousands of jobs and the many businesses that depend on aviation.”
Fellow trade body UK Hospitality also called for a move to a “more sustainable” system for travellers based on pre-departure testing.
“Our response has to evolve over time to avoid imposing undue restrictions and acting as a longer-term deterrent as international travel reopens.
“Hospitality has shown its willingness to help wherever it can throughout this crisis, whether that be offering venues as vaccination centres or rerouting food to key workers.
“Once again, we are happy to play a full part in the national effort to help address this crisis. We have the capacity to help and businesses have already had plans in place to ensure their venues are safe.”