Written evidence submitted by European Tourism Association (ETOA)



Julian Knight MP

Chair, DCMS Select Committee House of Commons

London SW1A 0AA


Thursday 6 January 2022 Dear Mr Knight

Re: Evidence submission to the DCMS Select Committee Inquiry into the Promotion of Britain Abroad


ETOA is a board member of the Tourism Alliance and endorses the submissions made both by the Alliance and by UKInbound. These remarks are to be regarded as complementary to theirs.


ETOA represents those operators and intermediaries that sell Europe as a destination throughout the world. For customers in long haul markets, the UK is seen as being part of a European vacation. Our membership is pan-European, but the UK is by far the most heavily represented country: 40% of our 1100 members (which include both operators and suppliers) are based here.


The UK is not only a major destination within Europe, it was traditionally the organisational centre European inbound operators. If you wanted to sell Italian hotel space in Japan, a Swiss Mountain Railway ticket to a Chinese or a French attraction to an American, London was where you would start. Prior to 2020, billions of pounds of long-haul third party spend was orchestrated through London. In tourism, this was an important “soft power” position.


This graph shows the number of US visitors travelling to Europe


Source: US State department



The severity of the drop is hidden by the fact that this includes all visitors: in the leisure sector the decline has been tantamount to a total loss. And the US was one of the better performing markets – there was some sign of life on the Continent in July and August. Some of the implications of this are addressed in the answers below.

This initiative is both necessary and welcome, but this is the worst moment to make predictions. No- one is to blame, but the inbound industry is lying beaten up in the gutter; no-one in that condition can make coherent medium and long term prognostications. They require urgent first aid.

I would be happy to address the committee in person to discuss the contents of this submission, and members are also surely available if you wish to speak to them.

Yours sincerely,


Tom Jenkins CEO




1.                   What needs to be done to re-establish the UK as a holiday destination for international travellers?


Re-establish air capacity.


Ease employment restraints in service sector, particularly in relation to the hospitality industry. We cannot have international visitors if there is nowhere for them to stay. London hotel space is running at approximately 50% capacity as the staff cannot be sourced.


Adopt a consistent (and light) COVID testing requirement. Many of my members’ have by-passed the UK: the testing was seen to be onerous and costly in comparison with the EU.


Longer term, we need to engage in a root-and-branch assessment of the visa regime, placing emphasis on the consumer experience. The UK is uncompetitive in this area because, while some progress has been made on processes, it remains outside Schengen and suffers accordingly, as does Ireland whose tourism fortunes are closely linked to the UK’s


The EU is making swift progress towards further digitalisation of both visas and application process.


                     What should Government and the tourism boards be doing to support the inbound tourism industry in its recovery?


As alluded to in other submissions, there is a strong argument to be made for export guarantee loans to be made available. Only when the industry restarts will there be a liquidity crisis: this may be a critical difficulty.


The availability of sufficient insurance is also a major deterrent to re-starting operations: arguably, there is a market failure. It has been suggested that a scheme such as Flood Re might be valuable as a safety net to ensure coverage remains available to all. This would also address shortcomings in both regulatory and financial protection frameworks.


What will the impact on the UK’s hospitality, cultural and heritage sectors be if inbound tourism is

slow to recover to pre-pandemic levels?


It is very difficult to see how the London economy will recover without inbound tourism. Foreign visitors used to account for 50% of the spend in Oxford Street, 40% in the theatres and a similar figure for pubs and restaurants in the West End. Inbound tourism is the lifeblood of the cultural economy, and a necessary complement to domestic demand.


2.  Does the Tourism Recovery Plan go far enough to support the industry’s recovery from the Covid- 19 pandemic?


The good news is that there is a plan. But the Recovery Plan seems wholly geared to boosting domestic tourism. Domestic tourism, while welcome, does not replace the export revenue from high-spending long-haul visitors.




What are the biggest challenges to delivering the plan?


They need to engage with the intermediaries – of every description – who are involved in selling the UK in origin markets. They are the easiest people to reach, and they have enormous influence over choice of destination and intention to travel.


3.  What should the UK be doing to maintain its status as a ‘soft power superpower’ and further

promote its culture and heritage on the global stage?


A defining feature of long-haul coming to Europe is that they tend to visit more than one country. Even such mature markets as the US, visitors average of two and a half countries when travelling to Europe. My members best selling package” is a London-Paris combination.


Consequently the UK needs to work closely with those countries with which it is associated in the mind of its potential visitors.


How can the UK capitalise on its exit from the European Union?


Most of the proposals in this area have little to do with capitalising on leaving the EU, rather they

aim to minimise the detrimental impact that Brexit has on tourism.


There are possible initiatives that spring from Brexit. Accessing migrant workers from far cheaper labour markets than the EU - such as south-east Asia – seems politically remote. The relaxation of package travel regulations for domestic travel is of no consequence to inbound tourism. This leaves the creation of the UK as a tax-free shopping emporium: but this has been ruled out as too costly and bureaucratic.


There may be investment opportunities which might have been precluded by EU state aid arrangements: but it is important these should be subject to sufficient consultation. ‘Picking winners’ is not a policy that works in business that depends on discretionary spend from a capricious consumer clientele. Ensuring public infrastructure is welcoming and accessible to foreign visitors whose English is limited would be welcome.


What are the biggest threats to the status of ‘soft power superpower’?


At the heart of the UK’s tourism appeal was London: a city whose appeal was based on a pulsating multi-cultural dynamism. Brexit – surely partly fuelled by a resentment of this status - looks like it might have stopped this in its tracks insofar as it allowed Britain to be presented as “proudly” insular


Who cares about politics when choosing a holiday? After all, Spain established itself as a destination under Franco, Greece grew under the Colonels and Thailand was a dictatorship during the early part of its growth.




When we sell the UK we do not sell suntans. We sell outstanding cultural attractions set in a vibrant service economy. We also sell a rich and chequered history that – with all its shortcomings – amounted to an international symbol of probity. The Mother of Parliaments, the legal system, unarmed police, the monarchy, the BBC, Britain (Empire – Commonwealth – UN - NATO) as a champion of co-operation and pooled sovereignty: all this amounted to a potent national brand more imposing than anything the US, France or Italy could muster. It was often countered particularly in countries taught about the slave trade, the American War of Independence, forced deportations, the Irish and Bengal Famines and the Opium and Boer wars. The brand was contested but still palpable.


Brexit is not adding lustre to this: it is in danger of making us ignorable.


The appeal and reputation of the UK’s higher education sector has been adversely affected by Brexit, as has its status the pre-eminent English language teaching centre. Its appeal as a school trip destination has been torpedoed by the requirement that all EU visitors should present passports rather than ID cards (and EU residents who are non-EU citizens may require visas. This is sufficient to switch destinations. There are now English-language courses conducted in France which were previously run in the UK; these typically combine travel with education.


What is concerning as that the immediate problems of Brexit disguise longer term threats. These concern complacency as to the quality of our product offering, the vital requirement to import talent in the sector running counter to populist sentiment, the waning of interest in our destination in the Far East, the need to build a sustainable future, the mystifying official antagonism towards coach transportation (both the most carbon efficient form of intra-urban transport and the best weapon to ease congestion), the need to cultivate low-season events in regional UK, our inability to compete with Schengen on visas, seasonality leading to the lack of adequate accommodation in regional areas (such as Wales and Scotland), the unreliability of UK tourism statistics and a myriad of other concerns.