The Business Visits and Events Partnership (BVEP), Coach Tourism Association (CTA), Confederation of Passenger Transport (CTP UK), English UK, ETOA, Tourism Alliance and UKinbound have collectively expressed their “despair and disbelief” at the Government’s decision to disregard the inbound tourism and events sectors for access to the latest Covid-19 support.
Since March 2020, the Government has stated that sexual entertainment venues and hostess bars are specifically eligible for Business Grants, Local Restriction Support Grants and Business Rates Relief. However, the group says that four key valuable export earning tourism and transport sectors, which have been effectively closed for almost a year, continue to be excluded.
Tour operators, destination management companies (DMCs), coach operators, language schools and event organisers (specifically organisers) generate £17.5bn and provide 275,000 jobs between them for the UK economy, but are not listed as businesses that should be eligible for support.
The Government’s latest “Business Support Package for January Lockdown”, which includes a Closed Businesses Lockdown Payment and LRSG (Closed) Addendum, provides further support of up to £13,500 for sexual entertainment venues, while again excluding tourism and many event businesses from applying.
The associations and their members say they have contacted ministers, MPs and government officials “over one hundred times” to outline why these businesses, which were profitable before the pandemic, should be supported and to ask for the eligibility criteria to be changed to include them. These requests continue to be ignored by Government, the associations claim.
Joss Croft, CEO, UKinbound said that by refusing to support these businesses the Government is “undermining an integral economic recovery channel”. International inbound tourism is the UK’s third largest service export, earning the UK economy £28bn in 2019, and tour operator/DMCs alone bring in over half of all international visitors.
“With our travel corridors closed these businesses are now on the brink of survival after being left in the cold by existing Government support schemes,” he said.
“Without support and a clear Government roadmap for reopening we risk the near total collapse of the UK’s inbound tourism industry. When we can travel again international visitors will choose to visit other European destinations rather than the UK, causing irrevocable damage to the communities and regions who rely on tourism, leaving the Government’s Global Britain and levelling up ambitions in tatters.”
Simon Hughes, chair of the BVEP added that event organisers have fallen through the cracks of Government support, despite being the core of a £70bn industry sector which employs 700,000 people. “Many organisers are small and individual businesses that do not have the means to survive a period of trading inactivity, that is already nearly 12 months long and could last well into the latter part of 2021,” he said. “Given that there are over five million inbound visits to the UK annually to attend a business event, generating a spend of £3.5bn, providing adequate support to event organisers is critical to the economic recovery of the UK.”
Kurt Janson, director, Tourism Alliance said that supporting these businesses is key to the success of the Government’s Aviation and Tourism Recovery Plans. He said: “Ramping up marketing activity in overseas source markets through VisitBritain and the GREAT campaign later this year will be of limited success if there are no events for people to come to, no tour operators to convert the interest and sell the product, if the language schools have closed, and if there are no coach companies to transport tour groups around the UK.”