The recovery of tourism in the United Kingdom, key for the industry

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The recovery of tourism in the United Kingdom, key for the industry
Source: Twitter @HeathrowAirport
October 14, 2021

Even with the announcement of new measures, concern grows about the performance of one of the most important source markets on the planet

The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) says the UK travel and tourism sector's year-on-year recovery may regain just a third, while spending on international travel continues to plummet.

The latest research from WTTC, which represents the global travel and tourism sector, shows that the recovery has been severely delayed by lack of spending by international visitors.

WTTC blames strict travel restrictions, such as the destructive "traffic light" system, for wreaking havoc on the industry. 
Now, despite its highly successful vaccine launch, the UK will post more losses in inbound visitor spending than the previous year, a year in which international travel came to a near complete halt.

At the current rate of recovery, WTTC research shows that the UK travel and tourism sector's contribution to the nation's economy could increase year-over-year by just under a third (32%) in 2021, in line with the world average of 30.7%.

However, research by the world tourism body shows that the increase has been driven primarily by the recent boom in domestic travel, with domestic spending growth set to see a 49% year-on-year increase in 2021.

While this increase in domestic travel has provided a much-needed boost, it will not be enough to achieve a full economic recovery and save millions of jobs that are still under threat. 

Research continues to show that international spending is projected to plummet by almost 50% from 2020 figures, one of the worst years on record for the travel and tourism sector, making it one of the countries with worst performance in the world. 

While other countries, such as China and the US, will see an increase in spending on international travel this year, the UK is lagging behind and continues to post significant losses. 

Severe travel restrictions, ever-changing policies and barriers to travel to the UK, such as the current requirement for visitors to take an expensive PCR test the second day after arriving in the country, have come at a price.

Last year, the UK travel and tourism sector saw 307,000 job losses across the country and research shows that jobs in the sector will remain stable this year. 

Julia Simpson, President and CEO of WTTC said: “WTTC research shows that while the global travel and tourism sector is beginning to recover, the UK continues to suffer heavy losses due to continued travel restrictions that are tougher than the rest of Europe.
“Despite government announcements, the UK still has a red list, expensive PCR tests, and a requirement for day two testing that just keeps people away from traveling. As the world opens up, the UK has more requirements for the doubly vaccinated than our neighbors. "

Looking ahead to 2022, the WTTC research offers reason for optimism.

With the right measures and a strong focus on international travel, the UK could see Travel & Tourism's contribution to GDP rise by 53% in 2022, resulting in an additional £ 66bn for its economy. 

International visitor spending could also see a significant increase of £ 29bn, just 20% below 2019 levels. 

Meanwhile, job growth could see an increase of 14% year-on-year, equivalent to 580,000 additional jobs in 2022, resulting in more than 4.7 million jobs, 445,000 above the levels of 2019.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) outlined an agenda for the UK to restore its air transport sector to health by adopting a simpler COVID-19 testing regimen, ensuring affordable and competitive airport costs and working to zero net air transport.

Speaking at the UK Aviation Club, IATA Director General Willie Walsh emphasized the value of face-to-face meetings and travelers' desire to fly again. But he cautioned that by restricting travel and persisting with expensive PCR tests, the UK was unable to capitalize on its early start on COVID-19 vaccines and lagged behind its major EU partners.

“In terms of daily life, the UK is much more pragmatic in managing COVID-19 than many other states. But his approach to travel continues to focus on restrictions that cannot be justified on the basis of risk. During the February to August period, the PCR test positivity rate for passengers arriving in the UK was 1%. And the test positivity rate for the general population was 7%. So we can confidently say that travel does not increase the risk of COVID-19 in the UK, ”Walsh said.

While welcoming recent moves to reduce the number of countries on the 'red list' and ultimately proposing an end to PCR testing for vaccinated passengers, Walsh cautioned that problems persist, primarily with the new post-air antigen test. the arrival. The UK relies on a closed shop of private test providers, the effectiveness of which the Competition and Markets Authority has described as "a lottery". And prices are still high compared to convenient high street options in other parts of the world.

COVID-19 document controls have also been identified as a barrier to travel. The UK must lead with automated digital solutions to ease the burden on airlines. “Manual paper controls for airlines are unsustainable as volumes recover. We need to automate the process ... the airlines are not their border guards, ”Walsh said.

Affordable and competitive air transport costs

 The UK's slow recovery in air connectivity risks being derailed by the proposed fare increases at the UK's main air gateway, Heathrow Airport. Leaked documents reveal that Heathrow Airport owners are seeking 90% fare increases, adding around GBP100 to the cost of an average family's vacation.

“It is time for Heathrow shareholders to step up. They have enjoyed steady returns for years. Instead of waiting for the traveling public to cover excessive returns, it is time for them to invest. All eyes will be on the CAA to make sure they are doing their job protecting the consumer by rejecting outrageous airport behavior, "said Walsh.

Fly net-zero
On October 4, 2021, airlines at the IATA Annual General Meeting in Boston agreed to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. This ambitious commitment aligns the industry with the Paris climate agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 °. Net-zero will be achieved through a combination of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), new technology, improved infrastructure and operations and, where solutions in the sector are not possible, through the use of carbon offsets and capture.

“For aviation, net zero is a bold and audacious commitment. To achieve this, all stakeholders, including governments, need to play their part. Together we can make sustainable aviation a reality. By doing so, we will ensure the freedom to fly for future generations, ”Walsh said.

In terms of specific support from the UK government, airlines would like to see policies for further investment in SAF through capital grants, production incentives, government-backed loans and 'green bonds'. 

“An emphasis on incentives to establish a thriving SAF industry in the UK would show this to the world as a global best practice that will help states avoid a patchwork of different regulations or market distortions. The goal should be energy self-sufficiency for sustainable connectivity. And that would come with the added benefit of creating thousands of high-paying jobs”, Walsh said.


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