The British tourist industry is set to lose and astonishing £37billion this year alone thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.
Losses are being felt from the sharp decline in visitors both from outside the UK and the domestic market – with concerns high more companies will go to the wall in autumn, a parliamentary committee heard.
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: “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.”
Added up that means £37billion of lost revenue.
She said those figures were before the impact of any quarantine measures yet to be introduced were factored in.
“Really to get British tourism up and running this summer, and the summer is hugely important, you’re going to need that domestic audience. I think the worrying thing we see is the lack of confidence in the British public about travelling.”
She said there is a “a real job to be done there in convincing people that it’s socially responsible to travel and enjoy a holiday, and that it’s safe to do so”.
Ros Pritchard, director general of the British Holiday and Home Park Association, added that Government leadership is required for the message to switch from telling people to stay at home to encouraging visitors.
Specific assistance is needed for seasonal tourism businesses that earn their money between March and October, she said, suggesting they are looking at “three winters in a row”.
She said: “We’ve lost the 2020 season, effectively. And we are going to need help to get through to next spring. So I think the winter is when we will see businesses fail without that support.”
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.
On international markets, Yates said Visit Britain was already looking at stepping up marketing in Ireland, which will be exempt from the quarantine measures regarding international travel.
She added that arrangements between certain countries where quarantine rules might not apply was an “interesting” idea, citing France, Germany, Italy and Spain as particularly important markets, and giving the example of “an air bridge between the UK and America” which she said “might be one that would be valuable to us”.
By James Andrews