Tourism chiefs have launched a campaign to call on British holidaymakers to choose vacations in the UK rather than heading abroad for their summer break this year amid fears the industry may collapse.
Amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the 14-day quarantine imposed by the government on travellers coming to the UK, there are fears the tourism industry in Britain may collapse this summer.
This has led leading UK tourism figures to encourage a campaign around promoting British locations and landmarks as holiday spots for the upcoming summer season, while there are also calls for an additional Bank Holiday to generate further income.
A virtually deserted Bournemouth beach may soon be flooded with more tourists
The beach in Dorset has few visitors despite the occasional bright sunshine it enjoys
Patricia Yates, director of tourism agency Visit Britain, told The Sun: ‘It’s really important to extend the season, and bank holidays are really valuable.
‘Having a bank holiday in the October half term would really drive business, and remind people that the holiday season is still going and not just ending in August.’
Visit Britain director Patricia Yates wants the U to have an extra Bank Holiday this year
A map, pictured, shows the 20 local authority areas where the most jobs are at risk, according to an RSA study
Speaking in the Commons about the possibility of another Bank Holiday, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: ‘That is an excellent proposal.
MINISTERS CONSIDER CORONAVIRUS BANK HOLIDAY FOR BRITAIN
Britain could get a coronavirus bank holiday in October after a Cabinet minister backed the plans to deliver a boost to the struggling UK tourism industry.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said the idea for an extra national day off was an ‘excellent proposal’ and worthy of consideration.
UK tourism has been hammered by the coronavirus crisis with almost no tourists coming into the country from abroad due to an international travel ban.
Meanwhile, a domestic ban on non-essential travel and social distancing rules has stopped Britons from taking breaks within the country.
Tourism agency VisitBritain has proposed an extra bank holiday in October with estimates suggesting it could provide a £500 million boost to the sector.
‘One of the challenges we will have is getting the sector up and running as strongly as possible in the summer and extending it for as long as we can.’
Mr Dowden has also said on holiday in the UK: ‘I much prefer British holidays to holidays overseas.
‘I’m working closely with my colleague the Chancellor and we will be looking at further measures.
‘And of course once the sector is ready to go I’ll be at the forefront of championing the campaign for British tourism.
‘We have set this very ambitious target to try and get the sector back by July 4, so long as it is safe to do so. I am working to make that a reality.’
Ms Yates added: ‘While the tourism industry is likely not to reopen in England until early July the sector is working very hard getting prepared to welcome visitors back.
‘We are working with the Government to ensure that tourism can recover as quickly as possible once restrictions are lifted, and to save as much of the valuable summer season as we can and extend the tourism season into October and beyond.
‘Alongside this, and following Government guidelines, we would also like to see a major domestic campaign, when restrictions are lifted and we can holiday at home again, give reassurance to us all that it is socially responsible to travel.’
Mr Dowden’s calls may well be aided by the reluctance of some tourism hotspots to accept UK visitors at all.
Britons may also find travel abroad difficult with only Portugal and Northern Ireland so far voicing interest in ‘air bridges’ without quarantine, while all but two of the UK’s most popular holiday destinations currently have lower infection rates than here.
Spain and Germany have also warned they will not accept UK tourists until the infection rate in this country falls further, while the USA – which has the highest infection rate in the world – is not accepting any European visitors.
‘We are looking at the whole season being written off’, says Essex seaside B&B owner
Plans to ramp up plans to save Britain’s ailing tourism industry will come as welcome news to many of the country’s hard-hit seaside resorts.
Fay Jones, 57, who runs a small B&B in Frinton-on-Sea, Essex, had predicted the entire season would be a ‘devastating write-off’.
Her three-room hotel, The Old Surgery, is yards from the beach and normally takes bookings from across the country.
The Old Surgery in Frinton-on-Sea, Essex
But she said: ‘We are looking at the whole season being written off. It could mean finding another job.
‘This whole thing depends on how long the government pays the 80 per cent [of salaries up to £2,500-a-month] and how much they support business, as everything else has to be open for people to visit.’
She added the B&B could operate under social distancing measures by taking by taking bookings from family units ‘so everyone is from the same household’.
Only the USA and Portugal have a higher infection rate with places like France, Spain, Greece and Italy all drastically lower than Britain.
The current 14-day quarantine scheme, due to start on June 8, will be reviewed on June 29, with ministers also looking at whether to test travellers on their arrival in the UK – removing the need for automatic self-isolation.
The recent sunny weather has also seen many Britons flock to the seaside – even though lockdown restrictions are yet to be fully eased.
Thousands of sun seekers flocked to beaches as the relentless spring sunshine brought temperatures as high as 84F (29C).
May was the sunniest month in the UK since records began, but the country is now facing a gloomy start to the summer – just as the coronavirus lockdown is being eased and people can hold barbecues in their garden.
Yet many beauty spots were left in a disgusting state with countless bags of rubbish and waste left lying around.
In the Lake District, rangers filled 130 bags with rubbish after the weekend while in the Yorkshire Dales, two couples alone picked up 53 bags of litter from Stainforth Force waterfall near Settle.
Local councillor Paul Sullivan said: ‘It is horrendous… Too many people won’t pick up.’
Several National Trust sites have also reopened to the public and are proving so popular that visitors must book in advance, with many sold out for weeks ahead.
So far, more than 200 coast and countryside car parks in England and Northern Ireland have been reopened, but all homes remain closed.
Scotney Castle in Kent, Belton House in Lincolnshire and Killerton House & Grounds in Exeter are among the fully booked National Trust sites now open to visitors.
Vintage railway posters have been redesigned to encourage tourists to delay visits to holiday destinations.
York’s National Railway Museum (NRM) has also found a novel way to encourage visitors while warning people to stick with current government guidelines.
They have published a set of 10 vintage railway posters telling visitors to delay their trips.
These cover scenic locations such as Cornwall, the Norfolk Broads and the Yorkshire coast.
Beach BBQs at Sandbanks, Dorset as thousands of tourists descend on the posh peninsula
The hordes of day-trippers visiting the exclusive resort have left huge piles of rubbish
Visitors pass the mansion as they walk separately from others during country walks at Attingham Park in Shropshire
The NRM, which temporarily closed to the public on March 17, has a collection of 10,700 posters
On the posters, NRM director Judith McNicol said: ‘At a time of widespread travel restrictions, we hope that recreating a selection of the most popular travel posters will enable people to enjoy some of their favourite holiday destinations while celebrating the style and glamour of these works of art.
‘This is also a way for us to show our support for the nation’s keyworkers, including many of the 115,000 railway workers who are continuing to keep things running during this time. While we can’t visit these destinations this bank holiday, we hope that these reimagined posters might raise a smile and give people something to look forward to once the lockdown is lifted.’
York’s National Railway Museum (NRM) has published the set of 10 images covering scenic locations such as New Brighton & Wallasey
TOM UTLEY: Mrs U wants to join the hordes escaping to the country… but I can’t bear to leave my concrete jungle
The spine-chilling omens have been evident for many months now: a tendency to study the property pages with far more attention than she has displayed in the past; a heightened interest in TV shows such as Escape To The Country and Location, Location, Location.
Plus, the odd, casual observation thrown out over supper — ‘Isn’t it amazing how much you can get for your money in and around St Neots?’
No, there’s no getting away from it. Mrs U is hatching a plot to shatter the blissful peace of my semi-retirement, by uprooting us from the London semi where we’ve lived for more than 30 years and dumping us somewhere in the countryside.
Until recently, I’ve been able to fend off her none-too-subtle hints with a non-committal ‘hmmm’ and a swift change of the subject. But since this wretched lockdown began, her nudges have become ever more insistent and harder to ignore.
‘It’s not so bad working from home, is it?’ (Yes, it jolly well is. I desperately miss my colleagues and the office gossip — not to mention the whiz kids in the IT department, permanently on hand to unfreeze my screen or fix the printer.)
Mrs U is hatching a plot to shatter the blissful peace of my semi-retirement, by uprooting us from the London semi where we’ve lived for more than 30 years and dumping us somewhere in the countryside (file image)
Or again: ‘Isn’t this clean air heavenly? It’s almost like living in the country.’ (If she smoked as much as I do, she’d barely notice the quality of the air.)
Least subtle of all, now that three of our four boys are off the premises: ‘We don’t really need all this space in the house any more, do we?’ Or: ‘Wouldn’t it be lovely to have a bigger garden?’ (Oh, why won’t she consider the bother of moving, or the nightmare of starting the business of homemaking from scratch, all over again, in our sixties?)
Mind you, my wife is far from alone among urbanites in pining for the rural idyll of her imagination. Since the start of the lockdown, estate agents have reported an ‘unparalleled’ surge in demand for country homes from people who live in towns and cities.
It’s easy to understand why. Not only have countless Zoom-friendly office staff adapted happily to working from home — unlike me (GET DOWN, MINNIE, YOU BORING DOG! I CAN’T TAKE YOU FOR A WALK UNTIL I’VE FINISHED MY COLUMN!)
There’s also a widespread perception that our country cousins, safely isolated from densely populated breeding-grounds of disease, have enjoyed a far cushier time under state-imposed house arrest than families cooped up in tower blocks.
Over to Rupert Sweeting, head of national country sales at Knight Frank, where enquiries for rural homes have apparently shot up by 30-40 per cent since the lockdown started to ease. ‘Our country offices are frantic organising viewings back to back,’ he says. ‘It has got to the stage where we are telling people there is only any point in viewing a house if you are a cash buyer or your house is already on the market.
‘Families living in cities and towns have spoken to friends living in the country who have been much better off in lockdown and have been working from home. Those without children have moved to their parents’ houses and realised the benefits… There is also some nervousness about a second wave of infection.’
Other estate agents have reported a widespread yearning for country life, with Savills suggesting the lockdown may be fuelling a ‘rural renaissance’ among people who have been stuck with their families in small terraced houses and flats.
In a poll of 700 buyers and sellers, the agency found that four in ten of them think a village location more appealing than previously, while more than half of parents with school-age children (54 per cent) now find the idea of moving to the countryside more attractive than before Covid-19 struck.
All this I understand. Indeed, a mass exodus from the concrete jungle to green pastures would make perfect sense if lockdowns were to become regular features of our lives.
There’s also a widespread perception that our country cousins, safely isolated from densely populated breeding-grounds of disease, have enjoyed a far cushier time under state-imposed house arrest than families cooped up in tower blocks (file image)
But if the politicians’ panic-stricken reaction to this cruel virus is a once-in-a-lifetime aberration, as I pray that it is, I wonder how long it will be before some who flee from our cities start thinking they’ve made a terrible mistake.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the British countryside with all my heart. Though I was born in London, and the capital has been my home for most of my 66 years on this Earth, at various stages in my bachelor youth I was lucky enough to live in Berkshire, Cambridgeshire, Devon, Somerset and Suffolk.
I’ve also spent wonderful summer holidays in Yorkshire, Shropshire, Dorset, Anglesey (sorry, Ynys Mon), Norfolk, Essex, Warwickshire, Ayrshire, Midlothian, Aberdeenshire, Antrim, Fermanagh and Down — and I daresay other counties, too, which for the moment have slipped my senile mind. So I quite understand the lure of mountains, forests, fields and cliffside walks.
There were even times, as our four boys were growing up, when I shared Mrs U’s fantasies of an idyllic rural life — sharing gossip with the village postmistress, running the tombola at the church fete, having friends down from town for the weekend, watching cricket on the green, slurping a winter pint or two beside a blazing log fire under the ancient beams of the local… You get the picture.
But, let’s face it, the realities of country living don’t always live up to the dreams.
These days, the chances are that the poor old village postmistress has been driven out of business by vindictive managers at Post Office HQ, falsely accusing her of embezzlement because they were too blinkered to see that their shiny new computer system was riddled with flaws.
As for that charming old pub, frequented for centuries by the local farmers, fishermen and blacksmiths, will it ever reopen after the coronavirus terror? Or will the lockdown be the final straw for them, after the Breathalyser and the smoking ban, also imposed by our masters at Westminster? I’m not optimistic.
And I ask you, my darling wife: what will become of us if we get too old or ill to drive? We can forget about country buses to take us to the GP’s surgery or the supermarket, that’s for sure — unless we’re prepared to wait for every other Wednesday to come round. To all intents and purposes, it will be permanent lockdown.
No, the countryside is lovely for a fortnight’s holiday at the height of summer — and especially for those of us fortunate enough to enjoy robust health. But I suspect it’s not half so much fun in midwinter, when the boiler’s on the blink, the fridge is empty and our arthritis is playing up.
Say what you like about the miseries of urban life, but we have plumbers, takeaway restaurants and doctors galore, just minutes away, to see to our every need.
And if we get bored, well, there are galleries, pubs and entertainments aplenty to keep us amused, just a short walk or a hop on the bus away.
Or at least there were, before the world went mad. I trust that some will survive.
Enough to say that I’m hoping Mrs U’s yearning to uproot us will prove nothing more than a passing whim, engendered by these strange times.
One thing worries me, though. It’s not only interest in country properties that has shot up since the lockdown began. According to Co-op Legal Services, there’s been a 42 per cent increase in queries about divorce since March 23, while online searches for ‘I want a divorce’ are up by 154 per cent.
I have a feeling that I can’t carry on fobbing Mrs U off for much longer with a non-committal ‘hmmm’. So if my future despatches come to you from the depths of the countryside, you’ll know the reason why.