Visit Britain has renewed its calls for a one-off October bank holiday to generate some much-needed revenue for struggling hospitality businesses up and down the country.
As the country slides further into summer while still in a state of lockdown, the organisation has reported that only 17 per cent of surveyed holidaymakers feel confident that they will be able to take a domestic holiday in July or August. This figure rises to 31 per cent in September and October, indicating the need for an extended summer season.
It’s a gloomy picture, with Visit Britain Director, Patricia Yates, stating: “Lost domestic summer holidays are not likely to be replaced and only a minority who have cancelled trips are looking to rebook them”. She stressed that those planning a holiday in Britain were considering travelling from “October onwards and to rural and coastal destinations, as well as country parks and other outdoor attractions.”
The Government has set out the tentative date of July 4 for hospitality businesses, such as hotels, holiday lets and restaurants to begin gradually reopening, but this date could well be moved depending on the country’s rate of infection at the time. Even if businesses do reopen next month, they will no doubt be subject to strict capacity rules, which will make generating revenue tough. Meanwhile, in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, it is still not possible to book self-catering breaks, suggesting that it is unlikely that the sector will rapidly restart in July.
For Yates, every passing summer day sees more damage to the coastal towns and rural communities that rely on tourism.
“We are working across the industry and with the Government to ensure that tourism can recover as quickly as possible once restrictions are lifted, so we can save as much of the valuable summer season as we can and extend tourism into October and beyond”.
The impact of the lockdown and two lost May bank holidays has been seismic. Visit Britain has forecast that domestic tourism is set to lose at least £22 billion in spending across holidays and day visits alone this year. In normal times, the tourism industry is worth £127 billion annually to the economy, with domestic tourism accounting for £88 billion of that.
Visit Britain has stressed the importance of public holidays to these figures. Last year’s August bank holiday weekend was estimated to have brought a £2.1 billion boost to the economy, with 8.6 million Brits having planned an overnight holiday trip in the UK.
In recent years, there has been a marked trend towards domestic short breaks, with British travellers taking four million more one- to three-night trips than they did 10 years ago. Visit Britain hopes that an extra bank holiday could unlock the potential for autumn mini breaks, which could stem some of the losses and protect a number of the 3.1 million jobs in the tourism sector.
The October bank holiday idea has been backed by Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, who has called it an “excellent proposal”. However, a Government spokesman has previously dampened hopes, saying it was "worth acknowledging that extra bank holidays do come with economic costs".
When hospitality businesses do eventually reopen and restrictions are lifted, there is likely to be a huge push for travel across the country. In this context Yates says she would like to see “a major domestic campaign to give reassurance to the public that it is socially responsible to travel.”