Tourism association slams ‘freedom day’ and takes to the water to protest

UKinbound, a travel trade association representing over 300 inbound tourism businesses, has released fresh data which shows that 87% of inbound tour operators and destination management companies (DMCs) have lost more than 95% of their 2021 business due to a lack of clarity on opening.

The survey also found that more than a quarter (26%) of respondents forecast no business at all for the remainder of 2021, having now missed the summer season, whilst over half (53%) expected to make 10% or less of their 2019 revenue this year.

As the wider UK economy starts to reopen, UKinbound and over 30 of its members took to the water to highlight why ‘Freedom Day’ is anything but for the inbound tourism industry.

The group delivered a fresh message to Government highlighting the vast amount of export earnings lost by the UK daily due to a lack of inbound tourism, and to ask for urgent support for the industry;

Normally worth more than £28 billion per year to the UK economy, the inbound tourism sector has had practically no business since March 2020, resulting in a loss of £78 million per day.

Earlier this month UKinbound submitted a proposal to Treasury for a Tourism Export Recovery Fund. The proposal calls for an allocated fund that would allow inbound tour operators and DMCs to apply for a capped grant award based on their 2019 revenue levels.

This investment, totalling £47 million for the UK’s c. 230 tour operators and DMCs – and which is less than 60% of UK’s daily export earnings loss – would enable these businesses to survive until inbound tourism can safely resume at sustainable levels.

The proposal also calls for an extension to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme until April 2022. With 77% of tour operator and DMC staff still on furlough, and with no incoming business for the foreseeable future, the removal of the scheme from 1 October will be devastating for the sector.

Joss Croft, CEO, UKinbound, said: “With the rest of the UK economy opening up, the UK economy continues to lose £78m a day in exports due to a lack of inbound tourism, and hundreds of previously profitable businesses that provide valuable revenue to local economies and sustain thousands of livelihoods all across the country are on the brink of collapse, through no fault of their own.

“We urgently need Government to implement COVID vaccination reciprocity for our key inbound markets to allow inbound travel to return as quickly and safely as possible.

“However, with the summer season lost, and members reporting cancellations through to the end of the year, even a rapid reopening of inbound tourism will not be enough to save many of these businesses, which are now facing a second year – and a fifth winter – with no income or support.”