TOURISM industry leaders are calling for an extra bank holiday near the October half-term so Brits can have some time off work after the lockdown.
The head of Visit Britain Patricia Yates told MPs today it could help reboot the tourism sector by extending the holiday season past August.
Ms Yates told the Digital Media, Culture and Sport Committee: “The idea that we could possibly have a bank holiday in October, because the industry has lost the benefit of the two May bank holidays, I think that’s an idea being considered.
“What we’re going to need to do is not just stimulate people in July and August to really extend the season for the domestic market.”
The travel and tourism sector has taken one of the biggest hits from coronavirus after countries closed their borders and airlines across the world grounded their fleet.
Ms Yates said the tourism industry could start to recover as Brits, who can’t go to their usual European haunts, turn to the UK as a holiday destination.
By the end of the month, people will have spent the Easter long weekend and both May bank holiday weekends cooped up at home.
Brits are now allowed to travel to beauty spots and beaches – but can’t stay overnight.
Experts from the Centre for Economics and Business Research have previously warned bank holidays can cost as much as £2.3 billion a day.
A No10 spokesperson said this lunchtime: “We will of course respond to that in due course. It is worth acknowledging that extra bank holidays do come with economic costs, however.
“They have been in contact with us, we would always do the courtesy of considering what they are suggesting and we will reply to them in due course.”
Making sure people to trust it would be safe to go on holiday without catching coronavirus would be one of the biggest hurdles.
She told MPs: “To get British tourism up and running this summer, and this summer is hugely important, is we need that domestic audience.
“The worrying thing is the lack of confidence in the British public about travelling, so 74 per cent who have a holiday booked for July and September don’t think that holiday will take place.
“Only 19 per cent of people are thinking of booking a domestic holiday for the summer.
“And that’s much lower than competitor destinations, in Italy 43 per cent of their domestic holiday will holiday domestic.”
Ms Yates said 2020 would need to be the year of “domestic travel”.
Popular European destinations including France, Spain and Portugal all require a 14 day quarantine period for international visitors.
Boris Johnson announced the UK would also have its own two-week quarantine period for travellers and returning Brits – meaning holidaymakers could be forced to isolate for two weeks either side of a break.
If people break quarantine they could even be facing fines of up to £10,000.
But Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced yesterday the Government was looking at “airbridges” with countries that have low infection rates – bolstering hopes people could still get overseas trips in this summer.
It would mean quarantine periods for particular countries could be relaxed.
Greek tourism minister Harry Theoharis has called for the UK to stop the two-week quarantine for Greek tourists, and would reciprocate the favour for Brits entering Greece in turn.
Ms Yates said the idea was “interesting” allowing the UK to “choose the countries available to us for inbound markets.”