With only a week to go before the introduction of 14-day quarantine measures, tourism leaders from the north of England have written to the UK Government to ask for a more targeted, risk-based approach to the screening of passengers arriving in the country and for restrictions to be lifted at the earliest opportunity.
Tourism boards – otherwise known as Destination Management Organisations (DMOs) – from across the North say that the Government’s newly announced 14-day quarantine for air passengers arriving into the UK will have serious consequences for the tourism and hospitality industry and will severely impede the sector’s ability to restart and recover.
International tourism to the north of England is worth some £2.5 billion each year, supporting jobs in the visitor economy and wider supply chain. In normal circumstances Manchester Airport, for example, offers connections to nine of the UK’s top 10 inbound visitor markets and some of its individual services, such as to China, have been shown to benefit the North’s visitor economy by more than £250 million a year.
In a letter signed by ten DMO leaders from across the North, they pledge full support to the Government’s commitment to public health, but say that a blanket approach to the quarantine of all arrivals, irrespective of where passengers are originating from, will cause unnecessary damage to the economy and risk livelihoods.
The letter concludes by asking the Government to commit to a weekly review of any quarantine measures and to lift the blanket approach as early as possible to echo the approach being taken by competitor economies across the EU.
The concept of “air bridges” has been widely aired, including by VisitBritain chief executive Patricia Yates. It is suggested that adopting such a measure would enable travel from markets where COVID-19 is under control.
Marketing Manchester is leading the conversation and galvanising support across the north of England. Sheona Southern, Managing Director, said: “Manchester Airport is the Gateway to the North and its success has contributed immensely to our ability to grow the tourism economies in cities such as Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds as well as rural hot spots like the Lake District, Peak District and even North Wales. As DMOs we have a strong track record of working in partnership to grow visitor numbers and we now need to use our collective voice to ask for a nuanced approach to airport quarantine plans across the UK in order to support destination recovery of what is undoubtably now a decimated industry.”
Gill Haigh, Managing Director of Cumbria Tourism, added: “Cumbria Tourism and its businesses are working incredibly hard to behind the scenes to ensure a safe visiting experience for all. International tourism plays a vital role for our economy – bringing added value to our businesses throughout the year. Whilst of course we strongly support the necessary ongoing measures to control the virus, we would also ask the government to explore any opportunities for a more nuanced and risk-based approach.”
Chris Brown, Director of Marketing Liverpool, added: “We’ve seen first-hand at Liverpool John Lennon Airport how the industry is reeling, a picture that is reflected across the North. Now, the quarantine measures for all air passengers will deal an unnecessary and severe blow. Public health is of course everybody’s priority, but this blanket approach is simply not the answer. We urge Government to adopt a more nuanced, risk-based approach to passenger screening, similar to the tactics most of our European neighbours have taken. This would allow us to still be safe and sensible without further damaging the North’s economy and putting people’s livelihoods at risk.”
Rachel McQueen, Chief Executive of Marketing Lancashire, added: “We are fully supportive of the call on Government to review the quarantine proposals weekly and to consider a more flexible approach. The health and safety of residents across the North is our number one priority, but it is also important that we don’t cause additional pain to an industry that has been hit so hard. In Lancashire, we traditionally welcome visitors arriving into both Liverpool and Manchester airports. They come for our coast and countryside as well as our cities, to visit our museums and attractions and to eat and drink in our pubs and restaurants. Without them, those businesses and their supply chains will struggle even more.”
Jo Dilley, Managing Director of Marketing Peak District & Derbyshire, added: “Tourism has been one of the earliest and hardest hit of all economic sectors and whilst we fully support the Government’s commitment to public health, we must avoid causing unnecessary damage to an industry that provides not only a major economic contribution to the North of England, but also supports thousands of jobs.”
Notes to editors
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Senior Communications Manager, Marketing Manchester
The full letter to the UK Government reads:
90 Great Bridgewater Street,
Rt. Hon Boris Johnson MP
10 Downing Street
28 May 2020
Dear Prime Minister
We are writing collectively as representatives of the Destination Management Organisations across the North of England. International tourism to the North is worth some £2.5billion each year, supporting jobs in the visitor economy and wider supply chain across the North. We have a strong track record of working in partnership to grow visitor numbers from high spending international markets.
International air travel, particularly through Manchester Airport, which in normal circumstances has direct connections to nine of the UK’s top 10 inbound visitor markets, is central to the success of our sector. Manchester Airport plays a vital role as an international arrivals gateway to tourism destinations across the North. Our regional airports across the North are also important in connecting our cities to important European visitor markets.
A strong tourism sector in the North in turn contributes significantly to a balanced and internationally recognised UK economy.
The Government’s newly announced 14-day quarantine for air passengers arriving into the UK will have serious consequences for the North’s tourism and hospitality industry and will severely impede the sector’s ability to restart and recover.
We fully support the Government’s commitment to public health, and we are committed to playing our role to achieve this. The north of England is blessed with a plethora of natural, cultural and sporting assets known around the world, and recently our role has pivoted from encouraging to discouraging visits in support of the Government’s ‘Stay at Home’ messages.
At the same time, a blanket approach to the quarantine of all arrivals, irrespective of where passengers are originating from, will cause unnecessary damage to the economy and risk livelihoods across the North.
Therefore, we ask Government to immediately look towards a more targeted, risk-based approach to screening of passengers: the concept of “air bridges” has been widely aired and such a measure would enable travel from key markets which would begin to support destination recovery to a decimated industry.
We urgently ask the Government to commit to a frequent (weekly) review of any quarantine measures and to lift the blanket approach as early as possible, an approach that would echo the one being taken by competitor economies across the EU.
Sheona Southern, Managing Director, Marketing Manchester
Jo Dilley, Managing Director, Marketing Peak District and Derbyshire
Sean Bullick, Managing Director, Make It York
Gill Haigh, Chief Executive, Cumbria Tourism
Rachel McQueen, Chief Executive, Marketing Lancashire
Chris Brown, Director of Marketing Liverpool
James Mason, Chief Executive, Welcome to Yorkshire
Sarah Green, Chief Executive NewcastleGateshead Initiative
Michelle Gorman, Managing Director, Visit County Durham
Claire Heap, Visitor Economy Manager, Visit Leeds
Rt. Hon Grant Shapps MP, Secretary of State for Transport
Rt. Hon Priti Patel MP, Home Secretary
Rt. Hon Alok Sharma MP, Business Secretary
Rt. Hon Oliver Dowden MP, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport