Trade association bodies question government’s logic

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The Coach Tourism Association (CTA) has joined with other tourism trade bodies to challenge government policy on allocating discretionary grants to support the sector’s businesses affected by Covid lockdowns.

CTA, alongside The Business Visits and Events Partnership (BVEP), Confederation of Passenger Transport, English UK, ETOA, Tourism Alliance and UKinbound, has expressed despair and disbelief that government has again chosen to deny businesses in the inbound tourism sector, which generated £28.4billion in export earnings for the UK economy in 2019, access to the latest Covid-19 support.

CTA has highlighted that since March 2020, the Government has stated that sexual entertainment venues and hostess bars are specifically eligible for Business Grants, Local Restriction Support Grants and Business Rates Relief. However, four valuable export-earning tourism and transport sectors, which have been effectively closed for almost a year, continue to be excluded, including coach operators, tour operators/destination management companies, language schools and event organisers.

It says that these sectors generate £17.5billion and 275,000 jobs for the UK economy, but they are not listed as businesses that should be eligible for support, even though inbound tourism figures are down 95% as a result of Coronavirus.

Robert Shaw, Chair of the Coach Tourism Association, said: “Direct government support to coach tour operators during the pandemic has been patchy at best, with many left to cope without any significant support beyond furlough since the first lockdown. Our sector’s customers will be desperate to take coach holidays once it becomes safe to travel again, and it is vital that coach businesses are able to meet that need and continue delivering tourists and their significant spending power to destinations and regions across the UK.”

The government’s latest ‘Business Support Package for January Lockdown,’ which includes a Closed Businesses Lockdown Payment and LRSG (Closed) Addendum adds insult to injury, said the CTA, by providing further support of up to £13,500 for sexual entertainment venues, while again excluding these tourism businesses from applying.

CTA went on to say that these associations and their members have contacted ministers, MPs and government officials more than 100 times to outline why these businesses, which it said were previously profitable, generate billions for the UK economy and will significantly aid the UK’s economic recovery, should be supported and to ask for the eligibility criteria to be changed to include them.

Joss Croft, UKinbound CEO said: “By refusing to support these businesses the Government is undermining an integral economic recovery channel. International inbound tourism is the UK’s third largest service export, earning the UK economy £28bn in 2019, and tour operator/DMCs alone bring in over half of all international visitors. With our travel corridors closed these businesses are now on the brink of survival after being left in the cold by existing Government support schemes.”

Alison Edwards, Head of Policy at CPT UK, added: “Coach operators are a vital part of the tourism sector with over 23 million visits each year made to attractions across the UK by coach. If the Government wants coach tourism to help kick start our economic recovery it needs to ensure operators can access the support available to the wider leisure and tourism industry as a matter of urgency.”