The collapse in international visitors could cost the UK economy up to £2.5 billion over the Christmas period, UKinbound warned.

Almost 3.5 million international arrivals came to the UK last December contributing around £2.5 billion through spending in shops, restaurants, hotels, and tourism destinations.

UKinbound is calling for an Inbound Tourism Resilience Fund to be created amid fears that 60% of inbound operators and destination management companies will be unable to survive the Covid crisis after travel was brought to a near standstill since March.

The fund would enable operators and DMCs able to apply for a capped grant, awarded based on the level of turnover lost in 2020 and forecast operating costs.

Without this support, the trade association fears that:

  • Sectors that rely on operators and DMCs to bring in business, including attractions, hospitality, retail, hotels and transport providers would fail
  • Regional destinations that rely on operators and DMCs to bring visitors will lose out on valuable income, putting tens of thousands of jobs at risk and impeding the Government’s levelling up agenda
  • Pent-up demand and future business will be lost to competitor destinations

Ireland and several other EU countries have announced a set of specific support measures for the industry.

But Westminster has yet to come up with targeted support, while rate relief and grants the chancellor promised in March have still not been delivered, according to UKinbound.

The association also wants the government to work with industry to introduce rapid and pre-departure testing, alongside regional travel corridors to key markets such as the US, where there is strong evidence of pent-up demand for travel to the UK.

UKinbound chief executive Joss Croft said: “These figures are a stark reminder of the brutal impacts of Covid-19 on the inbound tourism sector, that faces not only a bleak Christmas, but a bleak future without targeted government support.

“Since March, we have seen the number of international visitors fall off a cliff, with the blunt quarantine and the lack of rapid pre-departure testing leaving the UK’s tour operators and DMCs facing an uncertain future, with many unsure whether they will survive 2021, after being left in the cold by existing government support schemes.

“Without further support and the introduction of rapid testing we risk the near total collapse of an inbound tourism industry and pushing international visitors to other European destinations causing irrevocable damage to the communities and regions who rely on tourism and leaving the government’s Global Britain and levelling up ambitions in tatters.”