Boris Johnson has been warned that failing to reopen international travel for the summer would blow an £18billion hole in the economy.
The prime minister has been facing growing pressure to include international travel in his roadmap for easing lockdown, due to be published today, Monday.
On Thursday, the bosses of some of Britain’s biggest airlines and package holiday firms urged Mr Johnson to have a ‘can-do’ attitude to reopening travel by summer or face tens of thousands more jobs being destroyed.
Boris Johnson has been warned that failing to reopen international travel for the summer would blow an £18billion hole in the economy. Pictured: Heathrow on Sunday
And a study by a group of cross-party MPs lays bare the scale of the potential hammer blow if current restrictions continue over the summer months, saying it would be ‘beyond devastating’.
The figures project the hit to inbound tourism, integral to the recovery of shops, bars, restaurants, hotels and tourist destinations, would be at least £7.5billion.
And for outbound travel, which generated around £37.1billion for the UK economy in 2019, the hit would be at least £10.5billion.
The figures, compiled by Parliament’s Future of Aviation group, relate to the potential hit for June, July and August this year.
They are based on the amounts inbound and outbound travel were worth to the UK economy for these months in 2019 and the impact if current historically low passenger numbers continue over the summer.
On Thursday, the bosses of some of Britain’s biggest airlines and package holiday firms urged Mr Johnson to have a ‘can-do’ attitude to reopening travel by summer or face tens of thousands more jobs being destroyed. Pictured: Heathrow on Sunday
Tory MP Henry Smith, chair of the Future of Aviation group, said: ‘Our aviation, travel and tourism industries have faced the hardest 12 months in their history and have been devastated by a collapse in passenger numbers and delays to the promised recovery package.
‘These figures lay bare the brutal reality that without further financial support and a clear pathway out of the restrictions, these industries who are already running on empty will be left in a battle for survival.
‘The pandemic has been disastrous for our aviation, travel and tourism sectors and the consequences of a lost summer season will be beyond devastating not only to the businesses involved, but their employees, their communities and the UK economy as a whole.
‘That is why it is so vital that the Government meets this challenge through a clear roadmap out of the restrictions and brings forward a serious and significant package of support that protects these essential industries for the challenging months ahead.’
Tory MP Henry Smith, chair of the Future of Aviation group, said: ‘Our aviation, travel and tourism industries have faced the hardest 12 months in their history’
Joss Croft, CEO of UKInbound, a trade body of 400 businesses, said: ‘Since the removal of travel corridors and the introduction of quarantine hotels, our members have received hundreds of cancellations for 2021, and as long as quarantine is in place, cancellations will continue and people will be put off booking a trip to the UK this year.
‘This is why we need the Prime Minister to publish a roadmap to reopening the tourism sector today.’
He also called for Chancellor Rishi Sunak to extend furlough and business rates relief as long as travel restrictions are in place to keep them afloat or face hundreds of firms being wiped out.
The travel industry has been ravaged by the pandemic, with air passenger numbers plummeting by around 90 per cent by the end of last year.
It takes us a number of weeks to go from no activity to providing flights and holidays for our customers. We need to make sure pilots, people in safety roles are trained, we’ve got to recruit people for the summer and it takes a lot of organisation for us to operate and not just operate in any way, but operate safely
Steve Heapy, CEO of Jet2.com
A raft of new measures in recent weeks, including pre-departure testing, quarantine hotels and the scrapping of ‘travel corridors’, has compounded the crisis and heightened fears for the future of the industry.
Mr Johnson’s route out of lockdown on Monday is not expected to include a timeline for easing restrictions on holidays, but will give a broad outline of the Government’s ambitions.
However, travel chiefs are concerned it may not be enough to give the sector the time it needs to prepare if holidays are to go ahead in the coming months and to create enough confidence for would-be holiday-makers to book.
They want Mr Johnson to harness the success of the vaccine roll-out and indicate when travel restrictions can be expected to start being lifted.
Steve Heapy, CEO of Jet2.com, said: ‘It takes us a number of weeks to go from no activity to providing flights and holidays for our customers.
‘We need to make sure pilots, people in safety roles are trained, we’ve got to recruit people for the summer and it takes a lot of organisation for us to operate and not just operate in any way, but operate safely.
‘It’s not like getting in your car after you’ve not driven it for a few weeks and just driving off. There are a lot of things that need to happen. We need certainty.’
Shai Weiss, CEO of Virgin Atlantic, said: ‘We believe travel can be safely re-started through a risk-based phased easing of border restrictions.
‘We need to be planning forward, it can take weeks and months to get operations fully up and running safely and consumers need confidence to be able to book.
‘People want to know when they can look forward to being re-united with their families, re-establishing vital business links and going on a well-deserved family holiday.’
On Friday, the Save Future Travel Coalition – made up of 12 leading travel trade organisations – wrote to Mr Johnson urging him to include a blueprint for reopening travel in his roadmap.
It called for the introduction of ‘vaccine passports’ so restrictions can be relaxed for travellers who have been inoculated.
The letter said: ‘We urge you to use your announcement on February 22 to provide a route out of the crisis for the travel industry, to help safeguard the livelihoods of the hundreds of thousands of people employed in the sector and rebuild the £80billion contribution the sector makes to the UK economy.’
A total of 7,000 UK-based pilots also signed a letter to the prime minister urging him to include international travel in his roadmap.