UK tour firms ask for taxpayer cash to stop ‘large scale redundancies’

More than half the firms that bring overseas visitors to the UK say they expect to close within six months unless the government comes up with extra cash.

The tourism trade association UKinbound asked tour operators and destination management companies to assess the impact of the coronavirus pandemic after the global travel shutdown and Britain’s blanket quarantine.

The survey found that 53 per cent did not expect their business to last beyond the end of the year. In addition, 88 per cent expected to make redundancies.

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Stephen Broughton, owner of Windermere-based Mountain Goat Tours said: “My business has been operating for over 40 years and normally turns over £2m annually. Last year over 50 per cent of our revenue came from overseas visitors.

“Whilst the lifting of quarantine measures is very welcome, the reality remains that we are already over halfway through the tourism season.

“We are hopeful that we will be able to increase our share of domestic visitors this year but social-distancing requirements on [public] transport is also making this side of the business unviable.

“An extension of the job-retention scheme until the tourism season starts again next March would be fantastic and would make all the difference to the survival of our business.”

Before the pandemic, the UK was the seventh most-visited country in the world. Incoming tourism contributed £28.4bn to GDP in 2019.

Last week the chancellor announced a six-month cut in VAT for the UK hospitality industry. The reduction from 20 to 5 per cent is intended to get people using hospitality and tourism services again.

Rishi Sunak described them as two of the hardest-hit sectors during the pandemic.

The chancellor said: “This is a £4bn catalyst for hospitality and tourism, benefiting over 150,000 businesses and consumers everywhere – all helping to protect 2.4 million jobs.”

Joss Croft, chief executive of UKinbound, said: “The measures that have been announced will unfortunately not help the many businesses that are involved in inbound tourism.

“Those tourism businesses that rely wholly on international visitors for their livelihoods are on their knees and that the risk of widespread redundancies and the collapse of previously successful businesses is a very real threat without further government support.

“Sadly, we look set to see significant redundancies from tour operators and the tourism supply chain next month, which means that many communities and businesses throughout the UK who depend on significant revenue from international visitors will also suffer.”

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