Recovery for the travel industry will be a complicated and lengthy process. VisitBritain’s latest central scenario forecast for inbound tourism to the UK in 2021, as of December 11th, is a decline of 76% in visits to 9.7 million and a decline of 80% in spending to £5.7 billion. Whilst a small increase in inbound tourism is expected for the early part of 2021, it will still be at a very low level. Even by the end of 2021, inbound tourism is not expected to be back to or even close to normal levels. We believe that there will be four principal steps that will drive industry recovery. Below, we’ve outlined what each of these steps might consist of.
1. Continued government support
As the tourism economy remains in survival mode, continued government support for the sector is crucial. For the past nine months, travel businesses have had very little trading activity, meaning they have relied on any form of funding possible. Some travel experts believe that the worst is yet to come.
Last week, the Official of National Statistics revealed that travel agents and operators are 90% down on where they were in February 2020, making them the worst of any of the services sectors. Unlike other sectors such as hospitality and the arts, the travel industry has had no tailored support from the UK Government. Whilst the Scottish Government has recently confirmed that tailored support will be made available from January, ABTA, The Travel Association is arguing for the Government in Westminster, as well as the Welsh Government and Northern Ireland executive to follow Scotland.
Continued support doesn’t just mean funding. It’s also continuously reviewing travel advice and making reasonable changes. ABTA is also calling on the Foreign Office to review its approach to the travel advice, as currently, the Government is advising against all but essential travel to the majority of destinations. Continued support is the Government allowing travel to countries where infection rates are comparable to or lower than the UK and where they have developed public health responses to the pandemic.
2. Restoring travellers confidence
Restoring travellers’ confidence will also play a crucial role in industry recovery. COVID-19 has dramatically changed the way people think about international travel and, although a vaccine has been approved, people will still be wary of international travel for a long time. In August 2020, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) conducted a passenger study which reveals travellers’ concerns during COVID-19. Some 58% of those surveyed said that they have avoided travel and 33% suggested that they will continue to avoid travel in the future as a continued measure to reduce the risk of catching COVID-19. But what is travel without travellers? You can read our blog post on how the travel industry can help to rebuild travellers’ confidence here.
3. Providing clear information to limit uncertainty
The most important thing travel businesses can do just now is provide clients with transparent information. Travellers need transparent information on what travel companies are doing to protect not only their health and safety, but their money too.
It’s even more important for clear information to come from the Government. It’s not only travellers who need clear information from the Government, the travel industry needs it too. Providing clear information is not something the Government has been great at doing this year but that’s going to need to change to help the industry move forward. Until both the Government and the travel industry can provide clear information, mainly on leisure travel, only then will travellers have confidence again.
4. Sustaining domestic tourism and support safe return of international tourism
With so much uncertainty and anxiety over international travel, travellers are more likely to consider shorter trips and destinations closer to home. This means that domestic tourism will recover earlier and faster than international travel. Domestic tourism will provide a boost to help sustain many destinations and businesses and will be a key driver of recovery in the short to medium term. Sustaining domestic tourism will be an important factor to protecting jobs, supporting business survival and supporting a safe return of international tourism.
There will of course be a lot more to industry recovery than what we have outlined here. Like we said, it will be a complicated and lengthy process, but we believe that these four steps will be major factors.
If you wish to speak to one of our travel experts about what we are doing at Best of Scotland Holidays, do not hesitate to get in contact with us today.