Boris Johnson is being urged not to forget the financial impact foreign tourists will have in reviving cities as the UK emerges from Covid lockdown.

UKinbound and seven leading tourism bodies have written to the prime minister to highlight that the survival and recovery of more than 200,000 city tourism and hospitality businesses they represent is dependent on international travellers returning to 69 cities across the UK.

City restaurants, bars, hotels, shops, theatres, visitor attractions and inbound tour operators and intermediaries – who bring in more than half of all international visitors to the UK and arrange for them to visit cities across the country – will struggle to remain profitable and viable if international visitors do not return this year, they argue.

International visitors spend an average of £696 during their trip, while an average domestic tourist will spend just over a third of this at £239, according to official data.

An additional 55.8 million overnight dometic leisure trips would need to be takern this year to make up for the lack of international visitors. However, VisitBritain has forecast that spending on domestic holidays in 2021 will drop by 33% compared to 2019.

Alongside stressing the need to safely welcome back international visitors to the UK via a risk-based approach, the letter included three key asks of the prime minister and government:

  • Fluid, easy access to the UK for inbound visitors from green countries
  • A cost-effective testing system, including the removal of VAT
  • Funds for VisitBritain to start international marketing of the UK abroad ASAP

UKinbound chief executive Joss Croft said: “As we progress from Step 2 to Step 3 in the reopening roadmap it is critical that cities are not left behind as the country moves forward with recovery.

“We can’t rely on domestic tourism to make up for the shortfall and spend of international visitors, especially in our cities.

“As we forge ahead with a new Global Britain post Brexit, the success of cities across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be vital.

“We face the prospect of boarded up shops and restaurants, and the vibrant heart and soul of our cities disappearing if international visitors and their vital revenue doesn’t return.”