Lack of inbound travel hinders UK economic recovery

The lack of inbound visitors is hurting the UK’s economic revival, even though outbound travel is recovering, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).

Figures from analytics firm and WTTC partner ForwardKeys shows tickets for international flights out of the UK increased by an average of 24% week-on-week in the week to July 13.

Germany showed the highest growth rate, up by 113%; followed by Croatia (69%), Sweden (68%), Portugal (65%) and Albania (64%).

However, there is still a lack of inbound international visitors because of concerns over rising Covid-19 cases and the UK government’s strict quarantine rules.

Virginia Messina, WTTC senior vice-president, said: “The UK’s economic recovery is going to continue to be hampered by the lack of inbound international visitors while UK travellers are leaving the UK in increasing numbers.

“Whilst staycations are helping boost the economy, it is not nearly enough to replace the £639 million which is being lost every day.

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“If the situation continues, the UK will lose out on much-needed revenues which international travel provides, benefitting every level of the economy far beyond the travel and tourism sector.

“If everyday travel is curbed, more cash-strapped travel and tourism businesses face even greater strain pushing them to the brink of bankruptcy. Meanwhile, Europe enjoys the financial benefits of British travellers returning to their markets.”

According to WTTC’s 2021 Economic Impact Report (EIR) international visitor spend in 2019, before the pandemic struck, added £35.6 billion to the UK economy, or 4.9% of total exports.

This slumped to £10.1 billion in 2020 – just 1.7% of total exports.

Trade association UKinbound is calling for support for the sector, including a Tourism Export Recovery Fund, the extension of furlough to April 2022 and mutual recognition of Covid vaccination status with key inbound markets, such as the EU and US.

However, hopes for recovery were dealt another blow earlier this week when the US government said it will maintain existing travel restrictions, citing the spread of the delta variant of Covid-19 in the US and abroad.

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