An extra bank holiday in October could help revive Britain’s tourism industry from the huge loss suffered during the coronavirus crisis, a top tourism boss suggested today.
Patricia Yates, who heads Visit Britain, said the industry had lost £37billion in trade since lockdown began and an additional day off would ‘stimulate demand when it is possible to travel’.
The country has already spent three bank holiday days in lockdown, including two at Easter and one earlier this month, which was moved to May 8 to mark VE Day’s 75th anniversary.
Downing Street said Boris Johnson would consider the idea but warned that extra bank holidays ‘do come with economic costs’.
Patricia Yates, who heads tourism board Visit Britain, says an extra bank holiday this year would help the industry recover from the £37billion of lost trade suffered since the outbreak of Covid-19. Pictured: Brighton beach, pictured on Saturday, is a popular tourist spot on bank holidays
Government estimates suggest each bank holidays costs the economy £2.3billion, while some business groups suggest the figure could be as high as £6billion.
The extra bank holiday in 2012, to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, is said to have cost somewhere between £1.2bn and £3.6bn, according to the government.
The calls for a new bank holiday come as Britons face a summer without holidays abroad and uncertainty over when lockdown restrictions will be lifted.
Meanwhile, the plans for the extra bank holiday have come under fire.
Some have dismissed the need for an extra bank holiday, with millions of Britons already having been furloughed and away from work for almost two months following the coronavirus outbreak.
Critics include Labour peer, Lord Andrew Adonis, who said on Twitter: ‘Why do we want another bank holiday this year? Too little inactivity isn’t this year’s problem.’
The proposals were discussed today at the Digital, Culture, Media and Sports Select Committee, by Ms Yates, who is the acting chief executive officer at Visit Britain.
She told the committee: ‘The idea that we could possibly have a bank holiday in October, because the industry has lost the benefit of the two main bank holidays, I think that’s an idea that’s being considered.
‘So have an October bank holiday around half term, because what we’re going to need to do is not just generate people in July and August, but really extend the season this year for the domestic market.
Ms Yates also told the committee that billions was likely to be lost in the tourism sector as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, both from international and domestic holidaymakers.
Ms Yates, who is the acting chief executive officer at Visit Britain, discussed the proposals today at the Digital, Culture, Media and Sports Select Committee
She said: ‘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.
Health secretary says holidays abroad ‘will not be possible’ this year
Matt Hancock has said summer holidays abroad will ‘not be possible this year’ after the government announced a 14-day quarantine for all international arrivals into Britain.
Speaking to Philip Schofield on This Morning last week, the Health Secretary poured cold water over some Britons’ plans to fly abroad this summer, as holiday companies revealed a spike in interest for trips abroad.
Asked whether ‘summer was cancelled’, Mr Hancock told the ITV programme: ‘I think that’s likely to be the case.
‘It is unlikely that big, lavish international holidays are going to be possible for this summer. I just think that’s a reality of life.’
‘And for domestic, an industry that’s normally worth about £80 billion, a £22 billion drop on that.
‘And that’s actually before we’ve factored in the quarantine because we don’t clearly quite know what the measures are going to look like.’
She said while it would be the hope that domestic tourism this summer could pick up the slack and help alleviate some of the losses from the international sector, a ‘lack of confidence’ among people around travelling is a concern.
She said: ‘You’ve got a collapse of the supply industry as well as collapse of demand and 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.’
Ms Yates’ comments come after Health Secretary Matt Hancock poured cold water on some Britons’ plans to fly abroad this summer, by saying that holidays abroad ‘will not be possible this year’.
However, today Greece offered to waive its 14-day coronavirus quarantine for British tourists and holiday firms planning to restart flights from mid-June.
With the Mediterranean nation’s under-pressure economy heavily dependent on holidaymakers it has been making plans to refill deserted beaches and hotels.
Ms Yates’ comments came as Greece offered to waive its 14-day coronavirus quarantine for British tourists and holiday firms planning to restart flights from mid June
The country’s tourism minister, Harry Theoharis said that it would waive its requirement for visitors if the same was done for Greeks arriving in the UK, speaking to the BBC.
What is an air bridge?
An ‘air bridge’ is typically used by the military to reach and supply territory across enemy lines.
One of the largest in history was used for the Berlin airlift after the Second World War.
That kept the Western-held area supplied between June 1948 and May 1949 when it was cut off by Soviet forces.
Another famous air bridge was ‘The Hump’, which was the route over the Himalayas from India to resupply Chinese forces working with the Allies.
It also comes as ministers mull coronavirus ‘air bridges’ to allow travellers to move between countries without the need for quarantine once the outbreak is under control.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said a ‘blanket’ 14-day quarantine rule for arrivals will be introduced from next month.
But he disclosed that there are ‘active discussions’ going on over what countries could be exempted from the regime in future, referring to the idea of ‘air bridges’ – usually used to refer to military flights over enemy territory.
Countries with lower infection levels, such as Australia, New Zealand and Greece, could potentially be excluded from the tough rules, which will be enforced by law.
Earlier, Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary launched a savage attack on the government’s plans for 14-day quarantine on arrivals to the UK.
The new rules are set dash hopes of summer holidays for most of the summer, as exemptions are largely limited to lorry drivers.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps (left) said a ‘blanket’ 14-day quarantine rule for arrivals will be introduced from next month. That decision has been criticised by Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary
Ryan Air boss Michael O’Leary dismissed claims it will prevent his aim of resuming flights in July, saying he believes the policy is so ‘defective’ and impossible to enforce that the public will merely ignore it. Pictured: Ryanair planes at Dublin Airport in May
However, Mr O’Leary dismissed claims it will prevent his aim of resuming flights in July, saying he believes the policy is so ‘defective’ and impossible to enforce that the public will merely ignore it.
Tell councils to reopen car parks and public toilets, says government expert
Ministers must order councils to reopen public toilets and car parks and stop ‘terrorising’ those who want to visit beauty spots, a government adviser said today.
Professor Robert Dingwall, who sits on the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group, said the risk outdoors was ‘minimal’ and people did not need to be so anxious.
The government eased draconian limits on exercise last week, with Boris Johnson saying the public is free to drive distances and enjoy public spaces as many times a day as they want.
However, tourist boards have joined local authorities in saying visitors should stay away from beauty spots and seaside resorts.
Weston-super-Mare has changed its slogan from ‘Visit Weston’ to ‘Don’t Visit Weston’
He insisted the government is ‘making stuff up as they go along’ and face masks are the best way to protect the travelling public – despite many scientists saying they are of limited benefit.
Mr Shapps has insisted quarantine measures from early June will be a ‘blanket situation’ for other countries initially but could be then eased for those with low Covid-19 infection rates.
Huw Merriman, Conservative chairman of the Transport Committee, asked in the Commons: ‘If he will consider air bridges so that those entering the UK from countries where the infection rate is below the rate of one would not be subject to quarantine?
‘This will boost confidence in aviation travel and target safety where it’s most needed.’
Mr Shapps replied: ‘Final details of the quarantine scheme will be released soon, come in early next month.
‘It is the case we should consider further improvements – for example, things like air bridges enabling people from other countries who have themselves achieved lower levels of coronavirus infection to come to the country.
‘So, those are active discussions but will go beyond what will initially be a blanket situation.’
It is understood that hauliers will make up two thirds of those not required to self-isolate for two weeks.
All arrivals at airports will face 14-day quarantine under the government’s proposals. Pictured: People arrive at London Heathrow Airport wearing face masks
The rest are expected to include people who ‘work supporting national security or critical infrastructure and to meet the UK’s international obligations’, officials said.
Scientists researching coronavirus may also be exempt.
Last week Downing Street denied that travellers from France would be excluded, despite previously suggesting that was an option.
Ireland will not be covered by the rules due to the Common Travel Area’s role in the Northern Ireland Peace Process.
But Mr O’Leary told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the plans are ‘unimplementable, unmanageable and unpoliceable’.
‘People will simply ignore something that is so hopelessly defective… Let’s have some effective measures like face masks,’ he said.
‘All you get back out of the UK government is ”we don’t know”.’
‘It’s laughable that this government can come up with any plans for a quarantine that would be strict and fully enforced…
‘It’s idiotic and it’s un-implementable. You don’t have enough police in the UK.’