Matt Hancock hopes for a ‘great British summer’ post-lockdown
Millions of lockdown-weary families are unlikely to be able to travel abroad easily this year, so will holiday at home instead. And the rapid rollout of the Covid vaccine means getaways from Easter are realistic – with bookings already up 50 percent in some regions. And Visit Britain thinks the summer could be the start of a renaissance for an industry decimated by the virus.
In a rallying cry, its director Patricia Yates said: “Tourism is one of this country’s greatest industries. It is going to need all of us to make sure it bounces back once more.
“It is encouraging to see green shoots on the horizon and gains in consumer confidence in taking domestic trips from late spring and rising through summer.
“Thirty-nine percent of people we surveyed were confident of taking a domestic overnight trip in May, rising to 50 percent in June and 63 percent from Julyto September.
“We are also hearing reports that bookings for holidays at home have started to pick up with the vaccine rollout under way.”
Many families are rushing to take advantage of Covid cancellation policies that allow advanced bookings with full quibble-free refunds if travel is not permitted.
Destinations in tourist-friendly places like Cornwall, Yorkshire and London suffered badly during the first lockdown but there is now renewed optimism.
Millions of British families are unlikely to be able to travel abroad easily this year
In Cornwall, where the industry is worth £1.8billion a year, holiday-season bookings are already up by 50 percent. Industry experts forecast a £7billion bonanza from overnight stays as families choose to holiday there.
Malcolm Bell, chief executive of Visit Cornwall, said: “We have seen forward bookings up by 25 to 50 percent-plus, as people have decided to stay in the UK, and Cornwall is always one of the most popular destinations.
“We still have plenty of availability, but with free Covid cancellations in place there is no reason not to get on to the web and start your research, planning and booking directly with accommodation providers.”
He added: “We are in the most depressing part of the year and after months of restrictions many people yearn to have something to look forward to – and for most that is a long-awaited holiday.
“They desire an opportunity for families, grandparents, parents and grandchildren to reconnect away from what was once their home and sanctuary but now feels more like a workplace, classroom and open prison.” In Yorkshire, pre-pandemic tourism was worth £9billion a year, with the industry employing 225,000 people.
Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive James Mason said yesterday: “As amazing attractions and brilliant businesses continue to contend with another lockdown, it’s now a real positive to see the rollout of vaccinations leading to a light at the end of the turbulent tourism tunnel.
“There is a real interest in staycation bookings for when lockdown lifts.
“The short summer period that we did have last year demonstrated the huge demand for domestic holidays, with Yorkshire proving to be the No1 destination for returning and first-time visitors. This suggests we have an opportunity to capitalise again when restrictions ease.”
Tourism was one of the sectors hit first and hardest by the virus in the UK
Liz Smailes, owner of Blue Otter Boats in Skipton, North Yorkshire, said: “We welcomed a different customer base last summer – many coming from southern counties and a younger generation in their 30s who liked the outdoor freedom and novelty that comes with a canal boat holiday.
“We’re already seeing bookings come in from May onwards, and anticipate a big surge as soon as an easing of travel movements is announced.”
Tourism, worth a total £127billion a year to the UK economy, was one of sectors hit first and hardest by the virus. Last year the industry, which employs 3.1 million people and supports 200,000 small businesses and entrepreneurs, lost the Easter break, two May Bank Holidays, part of the summer season and Christmas.
Visit Britain forecast the shutdown cost British tourism and the wider economy £57.2billion.
Britain’s most popular attraction remains Tate Modern in London, followed by the British Museum and National Gallery, both closed due to lockdown.
There is renewed optimism for tourist-friendly places like Cornwall which suffered during lockdown
Other popular destinations, including Chester Zoo and Edinburgh Castle, have also had to close. Yet despite the misery of the past 11 months there is hope this summer can be saved.
Ms Yates said: “While much will depend on the situation in the run-up to spring and summer, it is going to be fantastic to see our tourism industry open its doors again when it is safe to do so.”
In 2019 record numbers opted to holiday at home with Britons taking 15.4 million domestic holidays between January and April – up nine percent on 2018.
This year’s predicted staycation boom comes as Spain warned that British tourists would not be welcome until autumn. But optimism surrounding the vaccine has seen a rise in overseas bookings, especially to Greece, Turkey, the Balearic and Canary Islands.
Travel expert Paul Charles said: “If the vaccination programme goes to plan then we are likely to see staycations open up again in time for Easter, as a first step.
“Then, with well over 30 million of us vaccinated in the UK by the end of April I would expect short-haul, European trips to begin with certainty from May 1.”