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Back Britain: Staycate… for now

By Alistair Kellie
07 October 2020

By Alistair Kellie

Twenty years ago I attended the book launch of Real Wealth Creation, by former Times journalist, Stella Shamoon.  I’m sure there were loads of sensible ideas in her book, but I remember her saying that overseas travel would one day become a luxury.  I recall dismissing the suggestion and promptly booking a weekend in Paris with my girlfriend.  Numerous city breaks, stag weekends and family holidays later and I’ve embraced cheap flights as much as everyone else.

Indeed, over the last 20 years air travel has become so cheap and easy (if you discount the increasing security restrictions) that we have started to take it for granted.  As a result, the limitations caused by CV-19 have come as a shock to most of us.  Like many, we had to cancel or postpone overseas holidays which were supposed to mark a big birthday and a landmark anniversary.

But again, like many, we relished the quiet skies and enjoyed our holiday in Cornwall.  Then as the restrictions started to ease people have started to travel overseas.  My wife works for a high-end travel business which has seen growing demand for people looking to avoid having to quarantine on their return.

Whilst this has clearly offered a glimmer of hope for the beleaguered hotel and travel industry, it seems odd that some appear willing to travel overseas, yet are reluctant to return to their places of work.

I recognise that for those without school-age children (see here) who can work remotely on their return, the risk of quarantine is worthwhile.  However, surely it’s irresponsible to take a school-age family overseas and then risk quarantining or worse, infecting others, when millions of people are making so many sacrifices to keep schools open.

Perhaps we should take this opportunity to visit more of the British Isles.  Certainly numerous friends, family and colleagues have said over recent weeks and months how much they’ve enjoyed their staycations.  Yes, the global hotel and travel industry needs our support, but so does our own. 

The latest figures from VisitBritain make grim reading.  Their initial forecast in December 2019 for this year was for inbound visits to the UK to grow by 2.9% and for spending by inbound visitors to grow by 6.6%, setting new records in each case.  The revised forecast as of 25 August 2020 is for a decline of 73% in visits to 11.0 million and a decline of 79% in spending to £6.0 billion. This would represent a loss versus the pre-COVID forecast of 30.7 million visits and £24.0 billion spending.

The Chancellor’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme was an enormous success.  So what about incentives over the next 6-12 months to actively encourage people to holiday in the UK and support UK hospitality and tourism?   Clearly this would be at odds with requests to the Government to support UK-based airlines and travel businesses.  As ever, there’s no easy answer.

St. Mark's Basilica and the Greek islands aren’t going to disappear and until there’s a vaccine or greater understanding of how we can travel with confidence, let’s enjoy these Isles (recognising there are also risks here!).  Perhaps this has been a good reminder to us that overseas travel is a privilege, and maybe Stella Shamoon was right that it will become more expensive.  This might at least help to mitigate the environmental impact.

That said, I’m hoping that I won’t need to eat my words come May next year when we’re planning to take our delayed holiday to Greece... antio sas!