The Tourism Alliance, the umbrella trade association for UK tourism and hospitality and which includes Bacta and the British Beer and Pub Association amongst its members, has written to The Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer, requesting changes to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and continued economic assistance in order to protect UK tourism and provide much needed economic growth when the current crisis ends.
A letter, sent Friday 3 April and signed by Tourism Alliance director Kurt Janson, delivered one of the most urgent messages from a sector counted in the top six contributors to the UK economy: Help.
Acknowledging the government’s support through the Coronavirus Job Retention initiative, Janson argued that in order to provide the same economic growth and employment opportunities that will be required when the current restrictions are removed, it would need additional help to resolve key issues regarding seasonal workers, the status of furloughed staff and continued assistance after the lockdown has passed, which is likely to be after the tourism season has ended.
With regards to seasonal workers, the Alliance argued: “Seasonal workers who started on/after 1 March are ineligible to furlough. Tourism is, to a large extent, a seasonal activity with an inevitable peak in the summer months. As such, seasonal workers constitute a significant component of the sector. Indeed, research by ONS estimates that there are around 380,000 seasonal workers within the tourism industry. A large number of these workers are employed over the main summer season which is between Easter and October. However, under the current Job Retention Scheme rules, it seems those who were recruited and have a contract of employment to start work on or after 1 March are ineligible for furloughing even though they may be returning to work for the same business over the summer season for many years and rely on this work for their yearly income. We plead the case for these seasonal workers that they may be furloughed, particularly where there is auditable evidence of their employment prior to 28 February 2020.”
The need for flexibility in the terms by which staff are furloughed in relation to essential security and maintenance was brought to the attention of Rishi Sunak. The letter confirmed: “Because furloughed staff cannot undertake any work, businesses will not be able to undertake the maintenance required to ensure that they are ready to welcome customers back as soon as the lock-down ends. Government is paying for 80 percent of furloughed staff time, might there be the flexibility for at least the remaining 20 percent to be used to protect their employer’s business and therefore their job? We ask for some sort of scheme, or flexibility to allow at least for minimum essential grounds maintenance and security in our land-based park businesses.”.
With the likely loss of the 2020 tourism season and businesses having to survive the winter until the 2021 tourism season begins, the Tourism Alliance fears that, if support is withdrawn, businesses will run out of cash over the winter period and go under even if the threat of the virus threat is diminished. The letter urges: “We ask that you provide the ongoing support seasonal tourism businesses will need, even if the country returns to a ‘new normal’ sometime this summer. While we are pleading for the survival of businesses in this important component of the UK tourism industry, this is also a plea to support the local economies which depend on revenue generated by tourism businesses.”
The Tourism Alliance has emerged as a powerful voice and one whose arguments are listened to by government. This industry comprises a mix of 240,000 inbound, outbound and domestic businesses. Together, they represent the UK’s third largest employer, providing jobs for 3.2m and contributing over £145bn/year to the UK economy. However, more important than the sector’s size and revenue generating capacity, is it’s ability to quickly contribute to the UK’s economic recovery. This was recognised in 2010 when, at the height of the Global Economic Crisis, the government identified tourism as one of six key industries that could provide much needed employment and growth to reshape and rebalance the UK economy. Subsequent research by the Office for National Statistics found that in the three years between 2010 and 2013, the tourism and hospitality industry provided almost one in three of the 900,000 new jobs created, jobs that were distributed throughout all regions of the UK.