UK government must rethink two-metre rule

15th June, 2020 by Nicola Carruthers

The UK government should reconsider the two-metre physical distancing rule, create an autumn bank holiday and provide additional financial support to help the nation’s hospitality and tourism industries reopen, according to a new report.

London

In the UK, 11% of hospitality businesses were able to operate normally during the lockdown

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Hospitality and Tourism’s Pathways to Recovery report was published by trade group UK Hospitality last Friday (12 June). The report highlights the scale of the impact of Covid-19 on the UK’s hospitality and tourism sectors, and provides a number of recommendations to help businesses recover.

It features testimonies and written evidence from more than 350 businesses, trade bodies and students’ unions.

The report states that the two industries have been the hardest hit by the pandemic with only 11% of hospitality businesses able to operate normally during the lockdown.

UK Hospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls added: “In every region of the UK, high streets in town and city centres have been almost entirely shuttered and normal life has been suspended. Hospitality and tourism were some of the first sectors to take a noticeable hit, even before lockdown began. The reality is that these sectors will also be two of the last to fully emerge and it will take time for employers to get back up to anywhere near full speed.

Previously, UK prime minister Boris Johnson said England’s bars and restaurants could reopen as early as 4 July.

Last week, the Scottish government confirmed bars in Scotland will be allowed to open along with other hospitality venues and tourism businesses from 15 July.

Recommendations

The study is calling for the UK government to work with businesses to reconsider the two-metre measure, as well as “urgent action” on rents.

The UK government should extend financial support for both sectors, the report said, which will be “crucial” to keep firms in business and jobs secure. However, it noted that some companies have struggled to access available support.

The report also highlights the need to promote tourism as a priority. The sector could be boosted with an additional bank holiday in autumn, a cut of tourism VAT by 10%, the introduction of ‘air bridges’ and a reduction to Air Passenger Duty.

Once these sectors reopen, most businesses well be operating “sub-economically”, the report added, with a phased approach needed. “A false start would be devastating for both hospitality and tourism”, the report noted.

Steve Double MP, chair of the APPG, added: “These are two of the most important parts of our economy and our inquiry has highlighted the importance of supporting these vital sectors in both the immediate and long term.

“Whilst the support provided to the sector so far has been very welcomed, we are under no illusions that the path to recovery will be tough. This report and its recommendations provide the government with a blueprint for supporting businesses. There is every reason to believe that businesses can bounce back if they have the correct support from Westminster and devolved governments.”

Nicholls continued: “If the government is positive and decisive in delivering support for these sectors, then the job will be made much easier. Businesses will be saved and jobs all around the country kept secure. We hope that the government acts on the recommendations in this report. Otherwise, the road back will be a long and hard one.”

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