As new figures revealed the scale of the collapse of travel to the UK, the culture secretary has predicted “2022 is set to be a blockbuster year”.
Airports Council International says aviation to and from the UK was just 22 per cent of 2019 levels, by far the worst of any major European country.
In contrast, Spain achieved 44 per cent, Portugal 48 per cent and Greece 53 per cent.
But Nadine Dorries, whose department is responsible for tourism, insisted: “There is huge pent up demand from international tourists to visit the UK and my message is clear: our brilliant tourism, hospitality and leisure businesses are ready and waiting to welcome people back.”
The prime minister said: “Thanks to the phenomenal success of our booster campaign and the extraordinary efforts of the public, the UK is officially one of the most open countries in Europe and ready to welcome visitors from across the globe.
“The UK is home to thousands of world class attractions, unbeatable hospitality and incredible history and culture; 2022 also promises a host of unmissable events, from her majesty’s Jubilee to the Commonwealth Games.”
VisitBritain currently forecasts 24 million inbound visitors to the UK this year, down 41 per cent from 2019 levels.
The decision to ban European Union citizens travelling to the UK on ID cards has diminished the potential market from the EU by around 300 million.
Last month, after the government brought in additional travel tests, the organisation warned: “The reintroduction of testing and the added complexity and cost for travellers will hit consumer confidence in the run-up to the critical festive season.”
On Monday the transport secretary said testing for fully vaccinated arrivals will end on 11 February.
Grant Shapps said: “We already have one of the most open economies in Europe with the least restrictions, and because of these changes we now have a travel sector to match it.
“This final step in our stable and safe full return to international travel is a major boost for UK tourism, setting Britain free ahead of the crucial half term and spring holiday season.”
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