The government is considering giving the UK an extra bank holiday in October to help cut the £37bn loss suffered by the tourism industry as a result of the coronavirus.
The idea has been put forward by VisitBritain after the infection outbreak forced hospitality businesses to close and lose out on capitalising on two bank holidays in May.
The government however has warned this could cause economic problems.
Speaking at a parliamentary committee yesterday, Patricia Yates, acting chief executive at Visit Britain, said 2020 has to be the ‘year of domestic tourism’ but there will be a serious challenge in convincing people it is safe to travel.
She told the digital, culture, media and sport select committee an October bank holiday could help to extend the season beyond the usual summer months.
She said that both inbound and domestic tourism had suffered immensely from Covid-19, with the worry that more businesses will go into administration in the autumn.
Giving estimates of how much was likely to be lost, Yates told the committee: “Every time we do the modelling the figures get worse. So for inbound, I mean we were looking at the beginning of this year at about £26.6 billion coming from inbound tourism – we reckon a £15 billion drop on that.
“And for domestic, an industry that’s normally worth about £80 billion, a £22 billion drop on that.”
She went on to say in order for business owners to make the most of the summer trading, ‘you’re going to need that domestic audience’ and highlighted the ‘lack of confidence’ the British public has around travelling.
Support will be needed for seasonal tourism businesses that rely on trading between March and October to keep afloat, and Yates suggested that they will need ‘help to get through to next spring.’
Samantha Richardson, director at the National Coastal Tourism Academy, said 7% of businesses in coastal communities have closed permanently and that estimates suggest as much as 25% of accommodation will be lost along the coast as a direct result of the pandemic.
Discussing international markets, Yates said VisitBritain was looking at stepping at marketing in Ireland, which is exempt from the international travel quarantine measures.
The official spokesman for the Prime Minister said the government will respond to the October bank holiday proposal in ‘due course’.