Inbound tourism losses costing UK economy £700 per second, claims report

Americans normally spend more on visits to Britain than anyone else, with Chinese citizens in second place

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Wednesday 26 August 2020 17:04 BST
Empty quarter: London's economy has been hard hit by the collapse of tourism
Empty quarter: London's economy has been hard hit by the collapse of tourism

The UK is set to lose £700 per second during 2020 from the absence of visitors due to the coronavirus pandemic and associated travel bans.

That is the claim from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), which says that the predicted £22bn cost of missing tourists and business travellers this year is partly due to “continuing uncertainty around travel restrictions”.

In 2019, 40.9 million overseas visitors who came to the UK spent £28.4bn. Spending by international arrivals is expected to fall to just 22 per cent of 2019 levels.

Americans normally spend more on visits to the UK than anyone else, with China in second place. France and the US are usually top in terms of visitor numbers.

Travellers from all three countries are currently required to self-isolate for two weeks on arrival in the UK.

The WTTC says that in its “worst-case scenario” nearly three million jobs in the UK supported by travel and tourism are at risk. The organisation says that during 2019, the sector employed almost four million people, accounting for one in nine UK jobs.

Gloria Guevara, president and chief executive of WTTC, said “it could take years to recover” from the slump.

“It could also threaten London’s position as one of the world’s premier hubs for business and leisure travel which could see other destinations take over,” she said.

“We urgently need to replace stop-start quarantine measures with rapid, comprehensive and cost-effective test and trace programmes.

“This investment will be significantly less than the impact of blunt quarantines which have devastating and far-reaching socio-economic consequences.”

In normal times the link between London and New York is the most important and lucrative intercontinental air route in the world, with British Airways alone earning $1bn (£800m) on the link.

But due to restrictions imposed by the UK and US, traffic has dried to a trickle on this and other transatlantic routes.

Last week Brittany Ferries announced it will cut sailings across the Channel because of the quarantine rules.

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