UK government gave masterclass on how to destroy a tourism industry
Simon Calder, also known as The Man Who Pay His Way, has been writing about travel for The Independent since 1994. In his weekly opinion column, he explores a key issue with travel – and what it means to you.
A couple or a family huddled around a map, looking puzzled, on a street corner in London: I’ve always looked out for them. Depending on where exactly I was in the capital, I could confidently predict which landmark they were looking for.
Outside of Waterloo metro station? The London Eye. In the vicinity of Westminster? Not the abbey (immediately identifiable), but Buckingham Palace.
In return for the abundance of help I received as a stranger in Stranger Lands, I did my best preemptively to ask if visitors needed any help.
“Seven minute walk,” I liked to prescribe, hoping it would make it sound more reliable than a wave “five or ten” in my opinion.
In the past 18 months, however, I haven’t found any foreign tourists to point in the right direction. During the series of lockdowns, it was understandable. But now, the absence of foreign visitors is the unforgivable consequence of government decisions.
Two years ago, welcoming foreign tourists was the UK’s third largest employer and the fifth largest for exports.
“Before the pandemic, the UK’s inbound tourism industry was the crown jewel in our crown,” said Joss Croft. He is the Managing Director of UKinbound, which represents hoteliers, tourist attractions, transport companies and the many other businesses that depend on foreign visitors.
“It has been an international achievement, bringing billions of pounds of new money into the country each month, supporting jobs and businesses in the UK.”
Compared to anywhere else in Europe, the UK had huge advantages. In particular, London was the aviation capital of the world, with tens of millions more inbound aircraft seats than any other city on the planet. This advantage has been wasted: Amsterdam, Paris, Istanbul and Moscow have many more arriving passengers.
“Today the industry is in tatters, desperate to rebuild but facing barriers as it tries to recover,” Croft tells me.
In the years to come, business schools will study the remarkable case of a government that chose to destroy its own tourism industry. Because that is precisely what the chaotic, inconsistent and ever-changing travel restrictions are doing in the UK.
Our rates of Covid cases are far higher than the vast majority of European countries, but the UK even views vaccinated travelers from ‘green list’ countries with suspicion. Who would book a trip to Britain knowing that multiple tests costing around £ 100 are an absolute minimum? The norm in other countries is that stung visitors from low-risk locations are greeted hassle-free.
No other country insists that only vaccines administered in Europe and the United States are acceptable, forcing potential travelers from Amber List countries in Asia, the Middle East and Africa to self-isolate. – and to pass additional tests. Visitors who desperately want to see their loved ones will comply, but those who want a vacation will not.
A spokesperson for the Department of Transport said: “We recognize the contribution of international visitors to the economy and have already relaxed quarantine and testing requirements for fully vaccinated passengers from the EU and the US.
“We continue to explore the role of vaccinations in developing a different set of health and testing measures for inbound trips, when they are safe.”
The UK remains a total outlier: a high infection nation with absurdly high entry barriers that destroy jobs and hurt the economy as a whole.
Sooner or later someone in the Treasury will notice that the usual procession of foreign visitors outside the Westminster office window is gone – along with £ 28bn in cash each year and the UK’s reputation as a welcoming nation .