Coronavirus: Government considering extra bank holiday in October this year

Kayakers wear wetsuits as they make their way towards the beach in Woolacombe, Devon, after the announcement of plans to bring the country out of lockdown. (PA)

The government is considering introducing an extra bank holiday later this year to make the most of Britons taking “staycations” because of coronavirus.

Patricia Yates, acting chief executive at Visit Britain, said 2020 has to be the "year of domestic tourism" as she proposed introducing an extra day off for workers around half-term in October.

Yates told the digital, culture, media and sport select committee on Tuesday that the new bank holiday would make up for the loss of tourism during the two May bank holidays.

Both fell during the lockdown period in which all but essential travel was advised, and when hotels and restaurants remained shut.

Visitors to Brighton beach in East Sussex. (PA)

"Really to get British tourism up and running this summer, and the summer is hugely important, you're going to need that domestic audience,” Yates said.

“I think the worrying thing we see is the lack of confidence in the British public about travelling."

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She said there is a "a real job to be done there in convincing people that it's socially responsible to travel and enjoy a holiday, and that it's safe to do so".

Giving estimates of how much was likely to be lost, Yates told the committee: "Every time we do the modelling the figures get worse.

“So for inbound, I mean we were looking at the beginning of this year at about £26.6 billion coming from inbound tourism – we reckon a £15 billion drop on that.

"And for domestic, an industry that's normally worth about £80 billion, a £22 billion drop on that."

She said those figures were before the impact of any quarantine measures yet to be introduced were factored in.

The prime minister's official spokesman said the government will respond to the bank holiday proposal "in due course" but added that extra bank holidays "come with economic costs".

Samantha Richardson, director at the National Coastal Tourism Academy, said 7% of businesses in coastal communities have closed permanently and that estimates suggest as much as 25% of accommodation will be lost along the coast as a direct result of the pandemic.

While Ros Pritchard, director general of the British Holiday and Home Park Association, said the government needs to change the message from telling people to stay at home to encouraging visitors.

Specific assistance is needed for seasonal tourism businesses that earn their money between March and October, she said, suggesting they are looking at "three winters in a row".

She said: "We've lost the 2020 season, effectively. And we are going to need help to get through to next spring. So I think the winter is when we will see businesses fail without that support."

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