Northern tourism boards lobby government over airport quarantine plans

Lake District depends on inbound tourism

Tourism leaders from the North of England have urged the Government to reconsider its plans for a 14-day quarantine period of inbound passengers.

With only a week to go before the introduction of 14-day quarantine measures, industry figures have written to the Government asking 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 £2.5bn 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 £250m a year.

In the letter, signed by 10 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 undoubtedly now a decimated industry.”

Gill Haigh, managing director of Cumbria Tourism, added: “Cumbria Tourism and its businesses are working incredibly hard 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, said: “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.

Chris Brown of Marketing Liverpool

“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, said: “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.”

The letter has been sent to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, as well as Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, Home Secretary Priti Patel, Business Secretary Alok Sharma, and Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden.