Trade bodies including the Coach Tourism Association (CTA) and the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) have challenged policy that continues to exclude inbound tourism sector businesses, including coach operators, from access to UK government COVID-19 support grants.
Ministers, MPs and officials have been contacted “more than 100 times” to outline why incoming tourism businesses should be supported, the trade bodies say. The government has been asked to amend the grant eligibility criteria to include them. Those requests continue to be ignored.
Recognition is imperative if those businesses are to be able to respond quickly when inbound travel returns and to leverage incoming tourist spending, the trade bodies say. They are thus calling for government backing to be extended to the inbound tourism sector, which generated £28.4bn in export earnings for the UK economy in 2019.
The groups have contrasted the inbound tourism sector’s position regarding grants with the treatment of lap dancing clubs and hostess bars. Those undertakings are specifically eligible for business grants, local restriction support grants and business rates relief.
Such an anomaly has been the subject of much discussion since Transport Minister Baroness Vere told coach industry representatives on 12 January that the sector’s operation of many services that are viewed by ministers as “non-essential” made it “very difficult” for them to agree to providing sector-specific funding.
Under the government’s latest business support package for the January ‘lockdown’, lap dancing clubs and hostess bars have been provided “with further support of up to £13,500 [each],” the trade bodies claim.
CTA Chair Robert Shaw says government support for coach tour operators during the pandemic has been “patchy at best.” Mr Shaw adds: “Many have been left to cope without any significant support beyond furlough since the first lockdown.
“Our sector’s customers will be desperate to take coach holidays once it becomes safe to travel again. It is vital that coach businesses are able to meet that need and to continue delivering tourists and their significant spending power to destinations and regions across the UK.”
Adds CPT Head of Policy Alison Edwards: “Coach operators are a vital part of the tourism sector. Over 23m visits each year made to attractions across the UK by coach.
“If the government wants coach tourism to help kick-start our economic recovery, it needs to ensure that operators can access the support available to the wider leisure and tourism industry as a matter of urgency.”