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  • Chloe Campbell-Hamilton

Let's embrace the UK: it’s time for a ‘staycation’

Looking forward to your next dose of summer sunshine abroad? An exciting city break caught your eye? It’s time to rethink that reality. With the Covid-19 pandemic upheaving the country’s travel plans, the tourism and hospitality industries are drastically suffering in the current climate. Travel bans worldwide are limiting opportunities for 2020, but what will next year hold? Whilst the tourism industry is predicted to gradually improve from this year's troubles, future travel plans are reliant upon tenuous virus predictions and increasing public trust by convincing investment of hard-earned money into travel. With international travel a while away, domestic travel will begin to take the spotlight. This is not good news if you love the jet-setter lifestyle, but here’s how a ‘staycation’ can tick your boxes for future holiday plans.

As an avid lover of travel and recent loss of my Australian year abroad; I have experienced first-hand the impacts of the pandemic on travel plans. However, it is critical to accept the new virus reality and understand the real struggle for those who depend upon tourism as a livelihood. In Europe, the situation is dire. UBS predicts profit revenues have fallen by 85% in Italy and 77% in Spain. Germany has extended a warning against foreign travel until mid-June and France has issued a ban on ‘non-essential travel’, including arrivals into the country. Portugal predicts that many of its primary tourist spots, such as the Algarve will take significant hits with many resorts not able to recuperate in time for July 2020. Although, some countries have taken alternate routes. Spain, even with a high virus infection rate within Europe, is hoping to reopen July 2020 due to its significant reliance on tourism. Whilst in 2019 the country was the second most visited tourist state in the world, such optimism is relying upon risk and public trust in travel.

Sadly, the reality remains dismal for businesses who may not survive the pandemic. From restaurants, hotels, tour groups and even airlines; the industry is in upheaval. The EU’s internal market commissioner, Thierry Bretton, has called for a ‘Marshall Plan’ to prop up the industry in order to prevent total collapse. Airport Council International predicts that passenger travel will not recover to pre-pandemic rates until the end of 2021. Economic recessions have plummeted profits, produced mass unemployment within the industry and caused a tide of distrust in travel investment. The industry may not be ready for the likely surge in demand and desire for international travel next summer, if social distancing remains a critical measure and businesses cannot afford to reopen. Public trust is tied to the recovery process of the pandemic and such a status is yet to be predicted. Many are currently unwilling to face the economic risk of purchasing holiday purchases for next year and face travel insurance woes. The Independent has indicated that the price of ‘package holidays’ purchased next year may increase due to overwhelming demand if travel becomes permitted. Although this would benefit surviving businesses; many ordinary families could miss out or be unable to afford. With sheer uncertainty in present times, the complex difficulties for the international tourism industry are seemingly here for the long run.

So, what about good old Britain? The Economic Times and UBS have predicted that domestic travel will increase before international, in line with government restrictions on travel. The UK travel industry is currently in a deep struggle for survival. The UK tourism industry is worth £127 billion per year, supports 200,000 small or medium businesses and employs 3.1 million. Visit Britain has predicted a 55% loss in expected inbound tourism for 2020 and a 24% loss in domestic tourism, totalling an overall £37.2 billion lost. Families who rely on cash reserves generated in the summer months have little hope and many worries.

But, it’s not all doom and gloom. Here’s how we can play our part. As government restrictions begin to gradually ease in accordance with recovery phasing, let’s embrace the glory Britain has to offer. A wealth of beauty is not far from home. Visit your local seaside town, shop in local businesses and drive to visit classic heritage sites. Explore what Britain has to give and support the families that rely upon the now damaged tourism industry. If you are a jet-setter and this does not appeal, take a moment to think about those who will truly benefit. The ramifications of the virus have impacted us all, a reflection on how we spend our time and who we spend it with is key. Opportunities to explore new cities and towns, escape your usual lifestyle and spend time with the family are all still available through UK tourism. Although memories of that heat wave that hits as you step off the plane, night-time beach strolls and dreams of cocktails by the pool may occupy your present thoughts; for now, let’s embrace the UK.

It is unlikely that the international tourism industry will be ready for ‘business as usual’ for 2021. Improvements will come gradually in line with virus recovery rates, as public trust and economic prosperity slowly increase. UK tourism needs the nation’s help and we should rise to the challenge.

We must remember, slow and steady wins the race. Let’s say cheers to the next ‘staycation’.

Image: Jack Anstey on Unsplash

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