VisitBritain has made the case for an extension of the UK’s summer season this year and an extra bank holiday in October to help the domestic tourism sector’s recovery.
Speaking to MPs during a Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport hearing, acting chief executive Patricia Yates said the sector needed more time to recoup revenues and faced an uphill struggle to persuade the public to go on UK breaks.
UK tourism operators and providers traditionally rely on income from holidaymakers travelling in the school summer holiday months of July and August.
She said: “The idea we could have possibly a bank holiday in October because the industry has lost the benefit of two May bank holidays; I think that’s an idea being considered.
“What we are going to need to do is not just generate people in July and August but extend the season for the domestic market, and that would help us extend it out to October half term.”
The UK’s national tourism body is already working on an industry standard for businesses to promote to show consumers they have reached the necessary Covid-19 health and safety guidelines, she said.
But Yates added: “I think we need central government support. We have been looking at an industry standard and online training portal for businesses to go through to get a mark they can show on the door to build consumer confidence.
“The people most likely to travel are older and families and yet that is the market most risk-averse. It’s important to show the industry is Covid-19 compliant and we need government sign off and support on that.”
She was hopeful an extension of the summer season would not bring with it increased holidays costs for consumers.
She said: “Holidays are supply and demand businesses and prices in July and August tend to be higher. We are trying to get that extension of the season to get the maximum benefit so I would hope there will be sensible pricing and that is what the industry is talking about.”
She admitted there would be challenges for tourism businesses to reopen, with extra cleaning costs for example, but said it was mostly likely the self-catering sector would open first followed by holiday parks and hotels which have implemented social distancing measures.
The inbound tourism market is unlikely to recover for “a couple of years” she added.
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