The UK tourism industry is braced for a £2bn hit from the coronavirus lockdown over the Easter holidays as popular destinations urge people to stay away despite the devastating impact their absence will have on businesses.
Hotels, holiday parks, pubs, restaurants and leisure destinations have all been forced to close to comply with lockdown regulations that will cover the Easter weekend, and are expected to continue for what remains of the school holidays.
Tourists, including second home-owners have been urged to stay away from coastal towns and national parks in order to reduce the risk of spreading infection and putting pressure on local health services.
In Weston-Super-Mare, which would expect up to 200,000 additional visitors a day over Easter, officials are urging people to stay away despite the damage it will do to the local economy.
Caroline Darlington, tourism manager of the local council, said: “My job and my colleagues is to get people to come here, so it goes against every bone in our body to say stay away, but we have to.
“And then we’re going to have to think in the future about how we’re going to help businesses get back on our feet.”
The lockdown measures will have a disastrous economic impact for many, particularly in coastal and rural areas that rely on tourism, an industry estimated to support 200,000 businesses employing 3.1 million people.
Figures compiled by VisitBritain show that domestic tourism generated an average of more than £2bn in March and April, the months that cover the Easter holidays, in the last five years, with £2.1bn spent in 2019.
That level of spending was likely to have been repeated this year.
The Easter holiday weekend is typically a peak for UK travel and, with good weather forecast and the four-day weekend falling in the middle of the two-week state-school holiday, millions of people would have been on the move.
Last year 7.4 million people said they were considering travelling over the Easter weekend, and VisitBritain data shows that on average more than 9 million took a domestic holiday during March and April in each of the last five years.
In 2019, 10.1 million people took a UK break during the two months.
Alan House, director of the family-owned Unity Holiday Park, said the lockdown has had “horrendous” consequences for his business.
He has six-figure monthly outgoings before wages and no revenue for the foreseeable future.
The park has been in the family for three generations but none has faced a challenge like this.
“We have had to furlough 170 staff, but I have 200 acres of grounds and a golf course that need cutting, and privately-owned caravans that need security,” Mr House said.
“This has come at the worst possible time, Easter can be our busiest week of the year.
“Clearly, we can’t keep going forever, obviously we’re grateful for what support there is but we’re going to need more support, the tourism industry is going to need more support, it’s vitally important to the UK economy.”
“We are supporting the tourism industry through this challenging period through the huge government support package for businesses and workers that includes a twelve-month business rates holiday and grants for companies,” the spokesperson said.
“We are also in regular contact with the industry to help inform our ongoing response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“As soon as it is safe to do so we will encourage people to book a great British holiday.
“However at the moment it is of critical importance for people to stay at home – especially over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend – to protect the NHS and save lives.”