News, Culture & Society

Quarantining travellers for 14 days will cost UK economy £650million a WEEK

The blanket two-week quarantine on travellers coming into the UK will blow a £650million hole in the economy every week, experts said last night.

It will wipe out the summer holiday season, which brings in £9billion in a normal year, leading to tens of thousands of lost jobs, say business leaders.

Tourism makes up around a tenth of the economy and helps support a wide range of jobs in hotels, cafes, restaurants and shops.

Foreign visitors to Cornwall are already cancelling trips up to October rather than wait for the UK to sort things out, the local tourism chief said. 

Passengers wearing PPE (personal protective equipment) queue up to board a flight at Terminal 2 of Heathrow airport, west London earlier this week

An April photograph shows a pictured of Suenos guesthouse owners Teresa and Neil Jones in front of their boutique bed and breakfast in Southend-on-Sea, Essex. Teresa said the fortnight of isolation may put off tourists from coming to the UK

An April photograph shows a pictured of Suenos guesthouse owners Teresa and Neil Jones in front of their boutique bed and breakfast in Southend-on-Sea, Essex. Teresa said the fortnight of isolation may put off tourists from coming to the UK

Instead, many are looking to other countries who are more welcoming after reopening.

It came as Home Office figures revealed 18million passengers – 200,000 a day – flew into Britain without any health checks between January and March, when coronavirus was spreading across the country at a rapid rate.

Ex-Tory aviation minister Theresa Villiers MP said this showed that ‘targeted quarantine requirements should have been put in place at an early stage of the pandemic’.

Industry leaders said the Government’s current refusal to allow tourists to visit Britain without spending two weeks in quarantine when they arrive would ‘devastate’ the country’s economy. 

Separately, ex-aviation minister Theresa Villiers MP is urging a ‘proportionate approach’ with quarantine measures aimed at ‘travel from Covid hotspots’

Separately, ex-aviation minister Theresa Villiers MP is urging a ‘proportionate approach’ with quarantine measures aimed at ‘travel from Covid hotspots’

The plan will contribute to more than 90 per cent of Britain’s summer tourism trade being obliterated, according to respected independent forecaster the Centre for Economics and Business Research.

Its founder, Douglas McWilliams, said the overall cost of coronavirus to the travel industry could be more than £20billion. 

He said: ‘The peak summer months of July, August and September would [normally] bring in over £9billion from inbound tourism. 

This will make struggle for survival even more difficult 

Teresa and Neil Jones say the two-week quarantine for visitors to the UK will make it even harder to keep their luxury guesthouse business afloat.

The Suenos Guesthouse in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, has been fighting for survival after closing during the lockdown.

Bookings taken for the five-star boutique hotel before the lockdown had already been cancelled. Now the couple fear their business could be hit further.

Mrs Jones, 48, said: ‘We do have overseas visitors and even though they don’t make up a massive percentage, it probably will have an effect.’

She said the fortnight of isolation may put off tourists from coming to the UK.

‘I don’t think anybody wants to be stuck, not seeing anything or going anywhere for two weeks when they land in the UK,’ she said. 

‘We’re not trying to have a go at the Government but it is frustrating. Everyone is in the same boat, everyone is trying to feel their way through this.

‘Everybody feels that they’re trying to get ready to start again and build things up and you think that this is going to put you back a bit.’

She criticised the decision to impose a quarantine period now, saying: ‘It’s kind of a bit pointless now doing it after all this time because everybody has come in already without having to quarantine.’ 

Earlier in the lockdown, discussing the challenges the business faces, Mrs Jones said: ‘There’s no point opening unless other businesses are open.

‘When people come they want to see local attractions and go to restaurants and bars.’

She said the size of the guesthouse, which has five bedrooms, would make it easy to enforce social distancing rules.

But it has communal areas and is popular because of its award-winning breakfast – both of which may not be available to guests, depending on what the Government allows.

If the two-week blanket quarantine is enforced, this £9billion is likely to be reduced to £0.5billion, costing the tourist industry £650million a week.’

Business leaders last night blasted the measures, due to kick in from June 8.

Malcolm Bell, chief executive of Visit Cornwall, said: ‘Foreign visitors are not just cancelling for next month – they’re cancelling up to October because of the way our Government is handling the crisis.’

Dr Steven Freudmann, chairman of the Institute of Travel and Tourism, called it a ‘stake through the heart’ of the industry, adding: ‘This is a case of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. 

‘All other sensible countries closed their borders back in March.’

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of trade body UK Hospitality, said: ‘The longer this quarantine is in place, the more damage it will wreak.’ 

Jace Tyrell, boss of the West End Company, which represents central London shops and hospitality firms, said: ‘The current quarantine measures are going to be catastrophic.’

The row heightened last night after a Whitehall source called critics ‘tin-eared’, adding: ‘I don’t think people in Hull reading their Daily Mail over their Frosties are going to have much sympathy with the millionaire leaders of the travel industry.’

The comment came after close to 80 bosses – including from The Savoy, Ritz and Mandarin Oriental – wrote to Home Secretary Priti Patel to demand she ditch the ‘unworkable, ill-thought out and damaging’ plans immediately. 

The letter, seen by the Mail, said ministers had also been ‘woefully slow to react and procrastinated to the point of absurdity’.

George Morgan-Grenville, chief executive of tour operator Red Savannah, who organised the letter, said: ‘The quarantine plans are poorly thought out, wholly detrimental to industry recovery and are more or less unworkable.’

Hotelier Sir Rocco Forte, 75, who also signed the letter, told the Mail: ‘Most of the travel industry is not millionaires, it is small family businesses who find it a struggle to survive. There will be millions unemployed who needn’t have been.’ 

The outcry has received short shrift from the Government, which said businesses were being supported by a range of bailout schemes.

The Whitehall source said: ‘The travel and hospitality sector have been extensively engaged throughout the entire process. It seems, frankly, like they’ve got tin ears.

‘The science is quite clear. As community transmission of the virus falls to a manageable level we need to stop the importation of cases from overseas. 

‘However, there is flexibility built in. The quarantine programme will be reviewed every three weeks.’

Harry Potter-themed shop owner Phil Pinder (pictured) said the quarantine measures will hit York's busiest time of year

Harry Potter-themed shop owner Phil Pinder (pictured) said the quarantine measures will hit York’s busiest time of year

Countries with similar levels of infections have already announced that their borders will be opened to tourists.

Spain has said tourists will be welcome from July 1 and Italy has said European travellers can enter freely from June 3. 

But travel operator Tui has said it will cut up to 8,000 jobs amid the ‘greatest crisis the industry has ever faced’.

Tens of thousands of hospitality and tourism staff are on furlough, and concerns have mounted that some will never return to work.

British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Airbus, which has a factory in Broughton near Chester, have all been forced to axe thousands of jobs.

We depend so much on foreign visitors  

Losing foreign tourists this summer will have a huge impact on business in the historic city of York.

Around 290,000 overseas visitors come in a normal year – with August being the peak month – and splash the cash in the medieval walled city.

Phil Pinder owns a Harry Potter-inspired shop called The Potions Cauldron on the Shambles – named Britain’s most picturesque street.

Mr Pinder, who is also chairman of the city’s retail forum, said: ‘August is even busier than Christmas. Visitors from abroad have holiday money.

‘They have changed it into a foreign currency so it becomes like magical money that needs to be spent before you go back home. Losing them will be a big blow.’

In 2018, 8.4million tourists injected £765million into the city’s economy. Foreigners account for 15 per cent of the spending by visitors to York.

ALEX BRUMMER: A profoundly stupid act of economic vandalism

Boris Johnson’s government has made many startling missteps as it has sought to manage the coronavirus pandemic.

Some have been understandable; this is a new virus and the havoc wreaked, unprecedented. Others have been the result of incompetence or complacency.

There is one ‘misstep’, however, that stands out as profoundly stupid. 

That‘s the decision to quarantine incoming passengers to our airports – foreign nationals and returning Britons alike – for 14 days, just as some normality starts to return to our lives.

A passenger wearing a face mask arrives at Heathrow airport, west London, last week. Travellers arriving in Britain will face 14 days in quarantine from next month to prevent a second coronavirus outbreak

A passenger wearing a face mask arrives at Heathrow airport, west London, last week. Travellers arriving in Britain will face 14 days in quarantine from next month to prevent a second coronavirus outbreak

Who will want to visit friends here, take a holiday or come to do business with such a draconian restriction in place?

Out of the 18.1million people who entered the country by air in the three months prior to the coronavirus lockdown, just 273 were formally quarantined.

Having failed spectacularly to act then, as the infection was spreading from the Chinese city of Wuhan worldwide, the authorities are playing catch up just as the long and painful lockdown is easing.

Where is the logic in that? It is an act of economic suicide that not only threatens our aviation, hospitality and tourism industries, but is a devastating blow to Britain’s place in the world as one of the great financial and commercial centres.

If this nation is effectively closed to international business, then the worst fears of those who opposed Brexit – that great swathes of the banking and services sector would be driven offshore – could actually be realised.

One only has to look at the dramatic steps forced on a previously thriving airline industry to understand the scarring to the economy which is taking place.

Flag carrier British Airways is implementing 12,000 job cuts, Ryanair is downsizing by 3,000 staff, and Easyjet announced yesterday that it will axe up to 4,500 posts.

Meanwhile, Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic is teetering on the edge of a precipice.

As demand for new aircraft plummets, one of Britain’s ‘industrial crown jewels’, aerospace engine maker Rolls-Royce is closing entire factories – resulting in around 8,000 redundancies.

From our island home, overseas travel is a fact of life for every section of the community.

So the sheer farce of having to self-isolate for 14 days after a short trip to Europe doesn’t bear thinking about (and that’s before other countries do as France has done and announced reciprocal measures).

Flag carrier British Airways is implementing 12,000 job cuts, Ryanair is downsizing by 3,000 staff, and Easyjet announced yesterday that it will axe up to 4,500 posts

Flag carrier British Airways is implementing 12,000 job cuts, Ryanair is downsizing by 3,000 staff, and Easyjet announced yesterday that it will axe up to 4,500 posts

My son Justin, who is working for a UK-based digital firm in Austin, Texas, has cancelled a trip home this August because he and his wife cannot risk the time and lost income involved in being quarantined for two weeks. The same applies to millions of others.

The disastrous loss of revenues for airlines, airports and airport retailers, such as travel specialists WH Smith, is just a microcosm of the tragedy awaiting the UK’s brilliant tourism industry.

No wonder that 78 key British players in the travel and tourism industry felt compelled to appeal directly to Home Secretary Priti Patel in a letter this week, urging her to think again about her ‘unworkable, ill-thought out’ quarantine plan.

And how out of touch was that snide Whitehall jobsworth to dismiss the letter as the whingeing of elitist London luxury hotels and upmarket holiday firms that wouldn’t much bother readers of the Daily Mail as they enjoy their morning cereal.

It’s bunkum and shows breathtaking ignorance.

Many of our readers are part of the UK tourism industry, which employs 3.8million people – from top London chefs to ticket sellers and guides at the nation’s monuments, from B&B businesses and canal boat operators to tea rooms, cafes and souvenir stand owners nationwide.

Moreover, the latest data from the UK’s Tourism Alliance and the Office for National Statistics shows the value of tourism stands at £145.9billion a year – amounting to 7.2 per cent of total national output.

It’s as if national decision-makers do not have a clue as to how wealth is created in Britain’s open and dynamic economy.

The prosperity of our nation relies heavily on the services industry – which makes up more than 70 per cent of the nation’s output – and is dominated by ‘people skills’.

That requires the UK’s vibrant army of hoteliers, tourist guides, consultants, lawyers, creatives, engineers, architects and construction experts, working across the globe, to be able to move freely in and out of the country.

I am fully aware that in the midst of a pandemic – when more than 37,000 lives have been lost – ministers cannot ignore the potential flow of infection from overseas.

One initial, sensible proposal for re-opening Britain to tourism was the idea of ‘safe’ air corridors between the UK and France and other European destinations with low transmission rates – but that was shot down almost as soon as it was mentioned.

But the best way of dealing with the risk would be to significantly beef up screening at points of departure and arrival.

Anyone who travels to the US is familiar with having to self-declare that they are not a drug trafficker. Travellers to Israel must self-certify that they are not carrying a weapon.

It would be a simple matter for travellers to and from the UK to self-certify themselves to be Covid-19 free or immune, with random checks, big fines and isolation for those who flouted the rules.

The sophisticated security devices made by Britain’s Smiths Industries, which already record many details of our lives when we leave or enter the country, could be programmed to assist screening.

When lockdown began on March 23, the vast amounts of government financial support – notably the furlough scheme – were put in place so that economic life could emerge from hibernation rapidly.

Shutting the doors on the UK’s wonderfully open economy with an illogical quarantine policy is an act of vandalism that goes beyond all comprehension.

 

 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk