British tourism industry set for £3bn coronavirus hit this winter, warns Labour

Britain’s battered tourism industry is set for a hit of more than £3billion this winter because of the coronavirus pandemic, Labour warned tonight.

The £4.2bn spent by overseas visitors to the UK has plunged by 80% compared with last November and December, according to the party.

It stepped up its call – first made by the Mirror – for more than £2bn returned to the Treasury by supermarkets in unneeded business rates relief to boost support for firms crying out for help, including in the vital tourism sector.

Shadow Business Secretary Ed Miliband said: “Businesses across the UK are facing a black hole this winter with billions wiped from their incomes during the crucial Christmas period.

“Those businesses in our visitor economy are facing not only the effects of restrictions here, but the huge loss of spend from tourism to the UK.

Shadow Business Secretary Ed Miliband

Coronavirus restrictions have hammered trade

“Our hotels, hospitality and high streets will be especially hard hit. Unless ministers change tack, a winter wipe-out of these usually vibrant businesses is a real possibility.

“They must do the right thing and see them through to the end of this crisis.”

There were 2.9 million visits to the UK by overseas residents in November 2019 and 3.2 million visits in December 2019, according to the Office for National Statistics.

They spent £1.9bn in the November and £2.3bn last December.

However, VisitBritain’s latest forecast for inbound tourists this year predicted a fall of 76% in visits and a decline of 80% in spending.

Shadow Culture Secretary Jo Stevens said: “Visitors normally flock to the UK because of our rich heritage, vibrant restaurant scene and stunning natural attractions.

Shadow Culture Secretary Jo Stevens

“This has been a devastating year but it is within the gift of the Government to support our vital tourism sector so that it can be there to welcome back visitors, both from the UK and abroad, when it’s safe to do so.

“Labour has consistently called for sector specific support and reallocating this public money from businesses that have returned it is an obvious solution.”

A Government spokesman said: “We understand the pressure businesses are under, which is why we have acted quickly and decisively to support them through our unprecedented support package worth £280bn.

“Businesses can continue to access the extended furlough scheme, business rates holidays, various loan schemes and VAT deferral, in addition to grants of £3,000 a month for businesses required to close.”


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