Now staycations are under threat: Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden says reopening the tourism industry could be delayed beyond July 4… meaning even a summer holiday in the UK might be off limits
- Hotels, campsites and guesthouses have been taking bookings for July
- Yet now warnings have emerged that tourism may not commence from the 4th
- There may be ‘phased return’, with low-risk accommodation like campsites first
The reopening of the British tourism industry could be delayed beyond July 4, the Culture Secretary has warned.
Hotels, campsites and guesthouses have been taking bookings from the start of next month after Boris Johnson’s ‘road map’ for exiting lockdown indicated that the tourism ban could end then.
But with the deadline barely a fortnight away, Oliver Dowden has said it was still too early to say whether Britain’s beleaguered tourist businesses would finally be able to open their doors.
Officials also warned that there could be a ‘phased return’, with relatively low-risk accommodation like campsites, caravan parks and self-catering flats and cottages allowed to reopen before hotels and bed and breakfasts, which make greater use of shared facilities.
The tourism sector may now have to wait on a proposed July 4 re-start, after the Government was warned it may still be unsafe to begin mass movements
Center Parcs has revealed it is pushing back bookings to July 13 at the earliest and others are likely to follow suit. Pictured: the swimming pool of the Woburn Forest branch
Speaking at Wednesday night’s No10 briefing, Mr Dowden said that although the industry had made ‘a lot of progress’ on how to minimise the risk of the virus spreading, Government scientists had still not agreed it was safe.
‘We have set out a road map,’ he said. ‘The next stage is July 4. I very much hope that we’ll be able to stick to that roadmap and we will see tourism return to the UK… but we can only do so when it’s safe.
‘We have made a lot of progress, but the key thing is ensuring it’s safe.’ Ministers are expected to make a final decision next week on whether to give the green light for the domestic tourist industry and the wider hospitality sector to reopen on July 4.
But one government source acknowledged the decision was in the balance. ‘Every department is fighting for its own sector,’ the source said.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said on Wednesday that although the tourism industry had made progress on virus control, Government scientists had still not agreed it was safe
‘The problem is that we only have limited headroom for relaxing the rules, so some very difficult decisions will have to be made.’
The warning came as hospitality and tourism bosses said the sector needed certainty now about the date when firms could reopen.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of trade body UK Hospitality, said: ‘We need confirmation of the reopening date for hospitality businesses without any further delay.
‘Businesses need time to prepare and the first step in giving them some much-needed clarity is confirmation of when they can open their doors again.
There may be ‘phased return’ to travel, with low-risk accommodation like campsites the first to be allowed to get back on their feet. Pictured: Cloud Farm Campsite in Lynton
‘This is particularly important for hotels and tourism, where 60 per cent of bookings are made more than two weeks in advance.’
Caravan, camping and holiday parks were planning to re-open in the first week of July. However, Center Parcs, has revealed it is pushing this back to July 13 at the earliest and others are likely to follow suit.
The decision to delay is all the more frustrating for the company as most Center Parcs across Europe re-opened this week – albeit with social-distancing restrictions.
Even the pools are operating in Center Parcs in France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands with restrictions on the numbers allowed in at one time. This is designed to maintain a social distancing rule of 1.5m rather than the 2m required in the UK.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of trade body UK Hospitality has called for confirmation of the reopening date for hospitality businesses without any further delay
A growing number of campsites have decided to pause or cancel all tent bookings because operators are in the dark about what safeguards will be required.
The advice is expected to mean that many of the facilities, such as playgrounds and children’s clubs, will be closed, so taking away much of the fun.
At the same time bars and restaurants may only operate as takeaways. Most importantly, camping and caravan sites are worried they will not be allowed to open shower and toilet blocks. If these are closed, or forced to impose social distancing and queues, many families will be put off.