Since the beginning of the global pandemic, the travel and tourism industry has come to a near-total shutdown internationally to/from the UK with very few restrictive exceptions. Since then, there has been an increase in visitor numbers but they remain at a fraction of their usual level. Amidst the pandemic, Coast to Coast Packhorse has spearheaded a movement to win support for our valuable industry. Rallying our competitors and suppliers to the cause, we have jointly lobbied the government to take action.

We have made several important requests and with these measures in place, we should all be able to share the enjoyment and benefits of holidaying in the Great British countryside.

Read on for our full letter to the government, which has gathered sixty signatures of support from throughout the industry.

 

The Outdoor Tourism Industry – An Appeal

I trust you and your family are well in these trying times.

This letter is on behalf of many of the UK activity holiday operators and stakeholders (full list below).   It is intended to provide you an update on how our sector of outdoor tourism has fared under the COVID-19 situation since we met in Richmond earlier in the year.

The support measures you established, along with our own funds, allowed all of us to weather the immediate impact of the virus.   However, we are now faced with the potential of a looming disaster.

With only a very short season in 2020, we have not been able to generate sufficient income to establish the financial reserves that normally see us through the winter period.   Collectively we are looking at around £25m in losses.   (To put in context, our businesses usually generate around £30m in turnover which in turn directly cascades approximately £150m to the rural economy).

Furthermore, the current lockdown has impacted on bookings for 2021, as customers have little confidence their chosen tour will be able to proceed and have focused instead on their own short-term issues.

Over the last month, we have witnessed a 75% drop in bookings for the next year compared to the same period in previous years.   This drop is manageable for now, as traditionally only limited bookings are made in November.

However, things normally pick up rapidly from Christmas onwards throughout January.   If this fails to materialise, all of us will struggle to meet our financial obligations, as much as the extended Furlough Scheme is appreciated and will help with retaining the staff needed to address preparation work in anticipation of a positive 2021.

Naturally we would rather have the assurance of a healthy order book and look forward to a day when all COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, hopefully with a reliable vaccine in place.

In the meantime, we collectively feel there are some simple and effective support measures that we ask you to consider.

  • Extend the VAT reduction through 2021 and allow this reduction to apply to our industry which operates under the Tour Operators Margin Scheme.
  • HMRC to roll PAYE & NI deductions for the period of March 2020 to September 2021 into a low interest loan repayable over 10 years from when the industry can operate normally, thus ensuring the industry survives and HMRC will collect revenues without losses.
  • Create a Domestic Active Holiday Voucher Scheme modelled on your very successful Eat Out to Help Out. In this proposed scheme, any UK national booking a domestic active outdoors holiday (e.g. a walking or cycling holiday) would have a £100.00 voucher they can redeem with any of the UK tax-registered tour operators.
    This would stimulate demand and have a significant trickle-down effect.   It is also important to stress the benefit to health that our type of holiday promotes.
  • Assist overseas visitors to arrive into the UK with an effective COVID-19 testing arrangement.
  • Should the present restrictions mean we cannot operate normally into 2021, we ask for further government assistance through ‘Bounce Back Loans’ of up to £50,000 per application, a maximum of £250,000 overall.

Your assistance on even some of these proposals at this critical point will be most welcome and greatly appreciated.

For every £1.00 spent on a holiday within our sector, we evidence at least £5.00 finds its way into local businesses such as the accommodations, cafes, pubs, shops and garages, therefore our proposals should also provide a significant stimulus to the UK economy.   Our expenditure supports the rural economy and farm businesses at a time when they face a very uncertain future.   Around 50% of our sales are to overseas clients, bringing around £75m of foreign currency into the country.

We thank you for your concern and in anticipation of your support.

Yours sincerely,

Mark Sandamas


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