Tourism association UKinbound has written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson pleading for urgent and decisive action to secure the future of the inbound tourism industry.
The association expressed grave concern that its tour operator and destination management company (DMC) members will need to make around 10,000 job cuts, and over half will fail within the next six months if the government does not intervene.
UKinbound recently undertook a survey of its tour operator and DMC members and found that 88% are set to make large-scale redundancies and 60% will be forced to make further redundancies in August when the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme tapers off.
To help save jobs and businesses, UKinbound has asked for the following immediate support:
- A Tourism Resilience Fund to help businesses that are wholly reliant on international visitors survive until the anticipated return of the market in spring 2021
- Guidance on rate relief and grants amended to include tour operators and DMCs
- National insurance and corporation tax holidays for these businesses until the market recovers
A request for longer-term support was also made, including:
- Financial support to promote and ‘sell' the UK at international sales missions and exhibitions
- Additional provisions for VisitBritain to promote the UK as safe and welcoming, when the time is right
- A 12-month suspension of Air Passenger Duty (APD)
- Introduction of a new five-year UK visitor visa for India and China
Joss Croft, chief executive of UKinbound, said: "Many tour operators and DMCs across the country, who rely solely on international visitors for their livelihoods, are on their knees – unfortunately their futures look very uncertain without targeted government intervention.
"Before the pandemic, these businesses were viable and successful and delivered a large proportion of visitation outside of London. Unfortunately significant economic benefits to the UK's nations and regions will be vastly eroded if these businesses go under and jobs are lost.
"Immediate support is needed, and we implore the prime minister to listen. The creation of a Tourism Resilience Fund for the UK's 200-plus tour operators and DMCs would help to shore up businesses until the market returns in spring 2021, as would allowing them access to rate relief and grant support. A national insurance and corporate tax holiday would also help ease the significant financial strain.
"Unlike many other tourism businesses such as attractions, restaurants, hotels and bars who can reopen and hopefully benefit from increased domestic tourism this summer, tour operators and DMCs have not seen an uptick in international tourists wanting to come to the UK and instead have seen extensive cancellations over the summer months and into the autumn.
"These businesses will have earned no revenue since March and are unlikely to until the start of next year's tourism season. Longer term, we need to entice international visitors back to the UK. This can be achieved through government funding of international sales missions and exhibitions; additional provision for VisitBritain to promote the UK as safe and welcoming, a temporary 12-month suspension of APD, and the introduction of a new five-year UK visitor visa for India and China.
"The industry is incredibly grateful for all the support the Chancellor has already provided, but now we need a targeted approach that will secure jobs and businesses in the inbound tourism industry, who will be vital to our long term economic recovery, a successful Brexit and the government's ambitions for a truly global Britain."