Coronavirus: Extra bank holiday for October being considered

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AFP

The government is considering introducing an extra bank holiday, possibly in October around the time of half-term.

The idea was put forward by the UK’s tourism agency Visit Britain.

Its acting head, Patricia Yates, told MPs on Tuesday the industry had lost the benefit of two bank holidays in May because of the coronavirus lockdown.

The government did, however, warn that having an extra break could have an economic downside.

Downing Street said the government was supporting the tourism industry through this “challenging period” and would “respond in due course” to the proposal by Visit Britain.

A spokesman said it was “worth acknowledging that extra bank holidays do come with economic costs”.

Ms Yates said an extra day in October would enable the UK tourism sector to extend the season. She said the industry could not keep up with developments and it was very difficult to estimate the amount that would be lost because of the coronavirus lockdown.

She told the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee: “Every time we do the modelling the figures get worse. So for inbound, I mean we were looking at the beginning of this year at about £26.6bn coming from inbound tourism, we reckon a £15bn drop on that.”

She said ordinarily, the domestic tourists contributed some £80bn a year, but she was expecting that to be down by £22bn.

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Ms Yates was one of a number of representatives from Britain’s tourism industry appearing before the committee.

She told the committee: “To get British tourism up and running this summer is hugely important as we need that domestic audience.”

Currently, overnight stays are not allowed in the UK. Hotels will not be opened until July at the earliest under the Government’s lockdown plans.

Ms Yates said a survey showed confidence was very low, and 74% of those who have a holiday booked between July and September did not think that holiday would take place.

UK Hospitality the trade group that represents leisure businesses from bars to hotels, approve of the move, but struck a note of caution. Its chief executive, Kate Nicholls, said: “A bank holiday in October may provide a welcome boost for hospitality businesses, not least at a time when consumer confidence will hopefully be returning to healthy levels.

“However, we are still some way from knowing what the sector will look like. A lot depends on whether businesses are able to open safely and whether the Government continues to support businesses who need it.”

Less than a fifth of people in the UK were thinking of booking a holiday for the summer, compared with 43% in Italy.

Ideas for the eventual reopening of overseas tourism are also being mooted.

At present, popular European destinations including France, Spain and Portugal all impose a 14-day quarantine for visitors, the length of a typical holiday break.

The UK is also planning a two-week quarantine period for those entering the country.

On Monday, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, said the Government was looking at so-called “airbridges” with countries that have low infection rates, which would mean easier entry for certain countries.

Greece, which has low coronavirus numbers, has been pressing for easier entry for Greeks, and offered reciprocal arrangements for UK residents.

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