Written evidence submitted by the African Travel and Tourism Association (ATTA)




Submission from the African Travel and Tourism Association (ATTA) to the DCMS Select Committee inquiry Promoting Britain Abroad, 5th January 2022.



The African Travel and Tourism Association is a trade body for businesses in the UK and around the world to promote tourism to the continent, with a wide array of members from across all travel sectors.


We are an outbound organisation, promoting travel from the United Kingdom to Africa.  The focus of the Select Committee is on inbound travel, and the impact of restrictions on the UK tourism sector.  However, transport access to and from this country is entirely dependent on travel going in both directions, a major drop in inbound access has a concomitant effect on outbound as well, the two operate together in a symbiotic relationship.


It is for that reason that the outbound sector of the travel trade entirely supports the concerns of the inbound, and vice versa.  We not only need each other; we cannot survive without each other. 


Airlines will dramatically reduce frequency and volume if visitors do not return to the UK in number, with a major effect on the size, employment, and tax contributions of the outbound travel industry as well.  The multiplier effect of aviation in particular as an enabling industry works in reverse should we not have a major push to return our domestic inbound tourism industry to its previous size.



Key statistics on outbound tourism (pre-Covid)






Sources: ABTA, Driving Growth: the economic value of outbound travel 2019; International passenger survey; The Business Travel Association



Current challenges


There is no question that the Covid pandemic has caused many problems for tourism, but there are some key issues that are seeing the UK fall behind its key competitors in Europe:



Outside of Covid, we see additional problems arising as a result of government policy:



The UK as a destination


The biggest failing of government when considering the rules in place is to view the UK in isolation rather than as a competitor country among the whole.  It may be viewed as the restrictions not being impossible to navigate, but for as long as it is easier to go to other countries, volume arrivals will default to the line of least resistanceIt is not a question of whether it is possible to visit the UK, it is whether it is worth the additional effort required versus other comparable countries. 


The UK has not been hit worse in terms of tourism than competitor markets because of Covid, but because of the response to Covid, deliberately making us less attractive than elsewhere.  This may be deliberate government policy, but it must be noted that if so, it is with another deliberate decision not to support the inbound travel sector specifically.


Tourism to the UK is generally driven by our heritage, visiting the likes of Buckingham Palace, or the Lake District. That type of tourism does not have any sort of urgency attached – those landmarks will be there to visit at any time, so it is easy for a potential visitor to the UK to postpone until there is a more ‘welcoming’ environment and, in the short term, choose a destination that is less onerous to visit.


There is little indication that the government is aware of the cost to the future economy by their approach.  Although job vacancies might be buoyant, this sector of the economy has lost up to 50% of their staff over the last 18 months.  This is a loss of expertise and skill that will have longer term deleterious effects on the sector and time is running out to preserve the remainder.  The UK travel sector, both inbound and outbound, was the most vibrant, competitive in the world, driving a market size far out of proportion to where the UK ought naturally to fit.  In order to be in position to take advantage from the return to some normality, we need to retain the skill base and the businesses that employ them.




UK landmarks are visible across the world’s media constantly.  We have a powerful proposition for tourism.  It is remarkable that it isn’t valued more than it is, and the last 18 months have highlighted the ignorance in too many quarters how essential both to our national positioning and to our national bank balance this has been.  We have remained extremely visible at the same time as turning away visitors – the worst of all outcomes.


The British are some of the biggest travellers in the world.  They are advocates for people to come to the UK, so numerous are they around the world. 




It remains a divisive subject here at home, but also abroad.  While opinion will invariably differ, it is not sensible to give the impression post pandemic that the UK is closed internationally.  There is an opportunity to sell Global Britain that cannot be taken advantage of while we have policies that specifically are more hostile to arriving travellers than the rest of Europe.  It feeds a narrative that is damaging the UK, not just in opinion pieces but in terms of the hard figures for arrivals. 


Government has already taken decisions that lessen the attractiveness and ease of visiting on a more permanent basis, such as the removal of tax-free shopping and of national ID visitation.  It is not sensible to bake in further difficulties into the future.


Domestic Tourism


British people holidaying in the UK do not begin to compensate for the loss of international arrivals.  The patterns are entirely different, the locations they visit are different.  British people fundamentally do not go to London for a week, only foreign arrivals do.  The same applies across other cities that attract international visitors, from Canterbury to Edinburgh to Liverpool. 


Lack of a tourism ministry


One area where all of the outbound and inbound tourism groups agree is that low priority given to tourism in the government structure.  While many tourist hotspots have cabinet level representation for the tourism sector, the UK only provides a junior minister for whom tourism is not the primary brief.  For an industry that comprises 10% of UK GDP this is quite remarkable.


During the Covid pandemic, we have very much been an orphan sector, with nobody really wanting to take responsibility for us. Our activities do cross Departments of State, with DCMS, BEIS, FCDO, Home Office, and DfT all impacting us to some extent, and we need a dedicated representative to act as the interface between the industry and Government.





Outbound and inbound tourism need each other.  We are together one of the largest service sectors in the UK economy yet are treated as an afterthought in government planning.  ATTA is a group that focuses on the outbound sector, yet feel the need to respond to this precisely because we cannot survive without our colleagues in the inbound sector.   Our UK Inbound colleagues and other sectors of the inward tourism sector have our full support in their submissions to you, and the purpose of this one is to highlight that their benefit to UK plc goes far beyond their already huge importance.  To put it bluntly, if British people want to have the wide range of choice for their own holidays abroad, we can only do it if overseas visitors also come here.  It is that direct a relationship.



If I can be of any further assistance, I am at your disposal.


Yours sincerely,



Kate Kenward

Managing Director