Labour slams lack of support for visitor economy as UK 'winter wipeout' hits

Lucy Harley-McKeown
·2-min read
The amount spent by overseas visitors to the UK has plunged by 80%, the party said. Last November and December, visitors spent £4.2bn in the UK. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA via Getty Images
The amount spent by overseas visitors to the UK has plunged by 80%, the party said. Last November and December, visitors spent £4.2bn in the UK. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA via Getty Images

The Labour party has hit out against the government’s handling of the winter economy, claiming businesses face a “black hole” worth billions this festive season.

New research by the opposition party showed that the “visitor economy” — driven by tourism and foreign visitors — took a £3bn ($4bn) hit this winter.

The amount spent by overseas visitors to the UK has plunged by 80%, the party said. Last November and December, visitors spent £4.2bn in the UK.

That means businesses particularly reliant on booming spend from tourists will have seen their income dented above and beyond other businesses in the UK, including 23,500 hotels, B&Bs, camping grounds and hostels; 39,000 pubs and bars; 2,200 zoos, amusement parks and historical sites; 35,500 restaurants; and hundreds of thousands of shops.

Watch: Should I book a holiday in 2021?

Former Labour leader and shadow business secretary, Ed Miliband, said: “Businesses across the UK are facing a black hole this winter with billions wiped from their incomes during the crucial Christmas period.

“Those businesses in our visitor economy are facing not only the effects of restrictions here, but the huge loss of spend from tourism to the UK. Our hotels, hospitality and high streets will be especially hard hit.

“Unless ministers change tack a winter wipe-out of these usually vibrant businesses is a real possibility. They must do the right thing and see them through to the end of this crisis.”

The Labour party has called for the more than £2bn returned to the Treasury by supermarkets in unneeded business rates relief to boost support for those businesses that do need it, as well as for those who have fallen through the cracks in government support.

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Jo Stevens, Labour’s shadow culture secretary said: “This has been a devastating year but it is within the gift of the government to support our vital tourism sector so that it can be there to welcome back visitors, both from the UK and abroad, when it’s safe to do so.

“Labour has consistently called for sector specific support and reallocating this public money from businesses that have returned it is an obvious solution.”

The calls follow data from retail intelligence agency Springboard, which analyses customer activity in stores, that showed Boxing Day sales fell by more than a quarter compared to a year ago. COVID-19 restrictions knocked footfall 60%.

The agency said Boxing Day footfall in the UK up to 10am was down 57% compared with figures from 2019.

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