Tourism chiefs call for extra bank holiday after ‘terrible’ May weather

Simon Calder
·3-min read
Changing places: Westminster Abbey has served as a vaccination centre during the coronavirus pandemic  (Simon Calder)
Changing places: Westminster Abbey has served as a vaccination centre during the coronavirus pandemic (Simon Calder)

Leading UK tourism figures have called for an extra bank holiday at the end of September, to make up for the ruin of the early May long weekend by unseasonably wet and cold weather.

Bernard Donoghue, director of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (Alva), said: “It was only the second bank holiday most tourism businesses have been open for in the last 14 months – and indoor attractions still aren’t open, except in Scotland.”

Members of Alva saw a 70 per cent collapse in visitor numbers in 2020, with one attraction in Warwickshire attracting an average of only two customers per day.

Mr Donoghue told The Independent: “We know tourism was hit first, hit hardest and will take the longest to recover.

“A bank holiday weekend will typically generate 15 and 18 per cent of annual income.

“Losing so many has been really disastrous. We’re asking for one more at the end of September so we can help repair our balance sheets.

“I don’t mind what it’s called, I just want it to happen.”

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, tweeted: “Hospitality and tourism has missed out on almost all bank holidays last year and the start of this.

“We agree, an extra bank holiday would be a boost to business, the economy, jobs and investment.”

According to a briefing by the House of Commons Library, bank holidays can be changed by Royal Proclamation.

“The Queen can also proclaim extra bank holidays, most recently done in 2012 to mark the Diamond Jubilee,” the document says.

The obvious day would be Monday 27 September, though this has been set by a number of universities as the first day of term.

If that date were chosen, and named after a key event in history, it would probably have to be known as Conquest Day – because 27 September was the date in 1066 when the troops of William the Conqueror set sail for England.

A week earlier, Monday 20 September, would have the advantage of more daylight – the autumnal equinox is two days later – and could be named QE2 day.

It was the day in 1967 when the liner Queen Elizabeth 2 was launched at John Brown’s yard in Clydebank by the Queen.

The QE2 is now a floating hotel in Dubai.

Initially Alva is calling for a one-off day off, but Mr Donoghue said: “We’d love to see this as a permanent fixture. We get far fewer bank holidays than the EU.”

Many of the association’s members are seeking help from the government to see them through another bleak year.

“Many attractions, museums and galleries are reopening at 30 per cent capacity,” the Alva director said.

“They are trading at a loss. We’re confident there will be a very good staycation market this summer.

“The visitor experience this year will mean no queues. But attractions that are heavily dependent on foreign visitors, such as Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Tower of London and Edinburgh Castle, will need additional support.”

Westminster Abbey has served as a vaccination centre during the coronavirus pandemic.

The next bank holiday weekend is the last three days of the month, on 29-31 May.

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