What does 2021 hold for hospitality and tourism?
The next four weeks will determine how 2021 will turn out for the hospitality and tourism sectors in the UK.
Steve Lowy is CEO of Anglo Educational Services, Chairman of BETA (British Educational Travel Association) and sits on the Tourism Alliance board. Here he provides his outlook for the sector and when he expects tourism to bounce back in the UK.
Over the next few weeks, we will not only hear from the PM about the reopening plan on Monday 22 February but also from the Chancellor about the budget on Wednesday 3 March. This is probably the most important budget since 1945 as to how we reopen the economy, and how the tourism sector is supported through that. It will have massive long-term impacts on the British economy and its ability to recover quickly and efficiently.
With regards to tourism strategy, it will roll out locally, nationally, then to Europe and then finally long haul. Travellers will start as leisure travellers with corporate travel not likely until the end of Q3. With that in mind, coastal and rural venues will see demand return quickly (like last summer) with cities also seeing an improvement when the rest of the tourism ecosystem reopens (theatres, museums, bars, nightlife etc).
The sector, being driven as a collective by the Tourism Alliance and UK Hospitality, is lobbying hard for the VAT reduction to be extended, alongside furlough, business rates and so forth to ensure the industry is supported through reopening.
Looking at the success of the vaccine roll-out, falling case numbers and (thankfully) a reduction in hospital numbers, my hunch is that the sector will be allowed to slowly reopen from early April onwards. From May, when there are two bank holidays and a half-term holidays, I expect we’ll see an increase of domestic visitors too. Volumes of tourism spending will be much lower than had been hoped for due to the third national lockdown (but also 70% lower than 2019 figures). However, looking forward at enquiries for 2021 (not necessarily bookings) there is definitely interest and intent to travel. It’s down to the sector to be flexible, open, safe and available to capture the interest when it picks up.
There is lots of work for the sector to do in the recovery and it is important that local MPs where venues are located are kept abreast of the challenges and issues that are being addressed. They should also be bringing those challenges, such as differed rents and difficult landlords, to the table to ensure the sector recovers as best as possible.