Tuesday 19 May 2020 3:50 pm

Tourism industry pushes for October bank holiday to fill £37bn hole

The government is considering plans for an extra bank holiday in October to give some respite to the UK’s battered tourism industry.

The proposal has been spearheaded by Visit Britain, the UK’s tourism agency, whose acting head today told MPs that the industry was on course to lose £37bn this year.

Read more: Downing Street confirms ‘air bridges’ quarantine exemption is under review

Speaking to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee today, Paula Yates told MPs the UK was set to lose £15m from international visitors and £22m from domestic tourism.

She said: “Every time we do the modelling the figures get worse”.

Government guidelines that people should remain in their homes throughout the coronavirus lockdown period have hit the industry hard, as have stringent travel bans for international tourists.

The potential introduction of a 14-day quarantine period for incoming visitors to the UK, which is expected to be implemented in early June, could have a further financial impact on the sector.

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Yates said that in order for businesses to be able to make back some of what they have lost due to the lockdown measures, which have covered the first two bank holidays of the year, the season would have to be extended beyond its normal endpoint.

She added: “Because the industry has lost the benefit of the two May bank holidays, I think that’s an idea that is being considered, to have an October bank holiday around half-term, because what we are going to need to do is generate people not just in July and August”. 

The government warned that there would be an economic cost to having an extra public holiday.

Early today a Downing Street spokesperson said that the government was considering plans for “air bridges” to some countries to allow UK citizens to travel without the necessity of quarantining.

The idea was first aired in parliament by transport secretary Grant Shapps yesterday.

Read more: Government considering ‘air bridges’ to countries with similar Covid-19 infection rate

The Prime Minister’s spokesman today said: “It’s an option under consideration, but it’s not an agreed government policy.”

“When we’re in a position to publish full details we will do so.”