Coronavirus UK: Some hospitality business owners ‘suicidal’

The boss of a tourism board in the UK has today warned how business owners in the hospitality sector are committing suicide due to the financial pressures they are facing in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.

James Mason, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, says the UK’s £50billion international tourism industry could lose up to ’90 per cent’ of its trade if the government implements a 14 day quarantine on all travellers entering Britain from next month.  

And he warned that some business owners have already taken their lives due to the pressures.

Speaking on BBC Radio Four’s Today programme, he said:  ‘It’s been a challenge, people are going out of business.

The boss of a tourism board in the UK has today warned how business owners in the hospitality sector are committing suicide due to the financial pressures they are facing in the midst of the coronavirus crisis. Pictured: Tourism hotspots such as Brighton Beach are still busy despite lockdown

‘People are actually committing suicide because it’s so difficult to get through this period where you are losing your house especially if you are a Bed and Breakfast owner. 

‘Tourism is worth £127billion to the UK economy, £88billion domestic and you can make the rest up at £50bn for international tourists.

‘So it’s a huge dent to our economy. Not having international tourists this summer is a big challenge for us.’ 

He added: ‘The quarantine is a real challenge because 90 per cent of all international travel is for 14 days or less so that would wipe us out.’

James Mason, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, says the UK's £50billion foreign tourism industry could lose up to '90 per cent' of its trade if the government implements a 14 day quarantine on all travellers entering Britain from next month.

James Mason, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, says the UK’s £50billion foreign tourism industry could lose up to ’90 per cent’ of its trade if the government implements a 14 day quarantine on all travellers entering Britain from next month.

Mr Mason said Welcome to Yorkshire was planning a campaign to extend the campaign and draw in more tourists later in the year, in the hope more restrictions could be lifted by then.

His comments come as the head of Britain’s tourist board this week told MPs that the industry had lost £37billion in trade since lockdown began.

Patricia Yates, who heads Visit Britain, told the Digital, Culture, Media and Sports Select Committee that while she hopes that domestic tourism this summer could pick up the slack and help alleviate some of the losses from the international sector, a ‘lack of confidence’ among people around travelling is a concern.

She said: ‘You’ve got a collapse of the supply industry as well as collapse of demand and really to get British tourism up and running this summer, and the summer is hugely important, you’re going to need that domestic audience.

‘I think the worrying thing we see is the lack of confidence in the British public about travelling.’

Ms Yates, who is the acting chief executive officer at Visit Britain, discussed the proposals today at the Digital, Culture, Media and Sports Select Committee

Ms Yates, who is the acting chief executive officer at Visit Britain, discussed the proposals today at the Digital, Culture, Media and Sports Select Committee

She said there is a ‘a real job to be done there in convincing people that it’s socially responsible to travel and enjoy a holiday, and that it’s safe to do so’.

Her comments were echoed by Ros Pritchard, director general of the British Holiday and Home Park Association, who said there had been cases of ‘vigilantes’ in some communities nervous of people visiting after weeks of tourists being told to stay away.

Health secretary says holidays abroad ‘will not be possible’ this year

Matt Hancock has said summer holidays abroad will ‘not be possible this year’ after the government announced a 14-day quarantine for all international arrivals into Britain.  

Speaking to Philip Schofield on This Morning last week, the Health Secretary poured cold water over some Britons’ plans to fly abroad this summer, as holiday companies revealed a spike in interest for trips abroad.

Asked whether ‘summer was cancelled’, Mr Hancock told the ITV programme: ‘I think that’s likely to be the case.

‘It is unlikely that big, lavish international holidays are going to be possible for this summer. I just think that’s a reality of life.’

She said: ‘When we’ve got holiday parks, say with NHS workers because we’ve been accommodating key workers when we could, we’ve had vigilantes checking up and reporting them to the council and the police – who are these people on your holiday park, what are they doing there?

‘That negative, anti-feeling is going to be an issue.’ 

Today, new thermal imaging cameras which can check the temperatures of airline passengers as they enter Britain were rolled out at the country’s busiest airport, as bosses look at ways to kick-start the travel industry in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

Heathrow introduced the tripod mounted cameras in one of its immigration halls as part of a new trial which started today.

If successful, bosses hope the move will allow Britons to head abroad safely without going into quarantine on their return.

It comes as the airport’s chief executive John Holland-Kaye today showed tentative support for the government’s plan for an automatic 14 day quarantine for travellers entering the UK – but called for a ‘risk-based approach’.

From today, passengers arriving at the airport’s Terminal 2 will be automatically screened for raised temperatures, which could indicate a fever – one of the common symptoms of coronavirus.

They will see the cameras as they pass through the immigration hall, with a sign telling them when they are entering an area being monitored.

Passengers will not have to stop to have their temperature checked – instead, screening will take just seconds using infrared sensors as passengers move through the area.

New thermal imaging cameras (pictured) which can check the temperatures of airline passengers as they enter Britain are today set to be rolled out at Heathrow Airport

New thermal imaging cameras (pictured) which can check the temperatures of airline passengers as they enter Britain are today set to be rolled out at Heathrow Airport

From today, passengers arriving at the airport's Terminal 2 will be automatically screened for raised temperatures, which could indicate a fever - one of the common symptoms of coronavirus

From today, passengers arriving at the airport’s Terminal 2 will be automatically screened for raised temperatures, which could indicate a fever – one of the common symptoms of coronavirus

Passengers will see the cameras as they pass through the immigration hall, with a sign telling them when they are entering an area being monitored

Passengers will see the cameras as they pass through the immigration hall, with a sign telling them when they are entering an area being monitored

If successful, airport bosses hope the cameras will allow Britons to head abroad safely without going into quarantine on their return

If successful, airport bosses hope the cameras will allow Britons to head abroad safely without going into quarantine on their return

Similar systems have already been trialled in Italy.

At this stage the trial is to determine only whether the technology works, meaning any passenger arriving with a high temperature would not be stopped.

Options for how to deal with passengers who show a high temperature reading are yet to be finalised, but are said to include asking that person to go into quarantine.

How do the thermal imaging cameras work and what will happen to passengers who show a high temperature? 

The tripod-mounted thermal imaging cameras read the temperature of passengers as they walk past.

During the trial, they will be set up in the immigration hall of Heathrow’s Terminal 2.

The cameras can read temperatures at a distance of 8ft.

If a high temperature or suspected fever is detected, checking systems will produce a warning signal.

Heathrow bosses have previously stated that they are still in talks with Border Force, the Department for Transport and Public Health England on what action should be taken if a passenger with a fever is identified.

Options include asking that person to go into quarantine.

If the trial proves successful, Heathrow could roll out its temperature screening cameras in its departures, connections and staff search areas.

Heathrow chief executive Mr Holland-Kaye today said the cameras could become the ‘common international standard’ to get people flying again.

It comes as the airport boss today also signalled support for the Government’s plan to quarantine anyone arriving into the UK from abroad – an idea which the Downing Street appeared to dismiss last night.

However Mr Holland suggested ‘risk-based’ approach was needed to get people flying again.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘The Government’s got a tough job to do.

‘If they think that quarantine is the right thing to do I think we have to go with that, but it has to be time-limited and we have to plan for what comes next.  

‘As the level of transmission comes down in this country and in other countries, we need to find a way that the vast, vast, vast majority of people who don’t have a disease can still fly.’  

It comes as yesterday the government poured cold water over the possibility of introducing so-called ‘air bridges’ between countries with low levels of infection, to provide a fillip to the beleaguered tourism sector.

The prospect of quarantine-free travel between the UK and countries with low coronavirus rates had been raised by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps earlier this week.

But with ministers expected to unveil plans tomorrow for a tough new quarantine regime requiring travellers to self-isolate for 14 days after arriving in the UK, No 10 said the ‘air bridges’ idea would not form part of the proposals.

It would have seen the 14-day rule relaxed for certain countries – and Greece and France had both expressed an interest in the idea.

Ms Yates' comments came as Greece offered to waive its 14-day coronavirus quarantine for British tourists and holiday firms planning to restart flights from mid June

Ms Yates’ comments came as Greece offered to waive its 14-day coronavirus quarantine for British tourists and holiday firms planning to restart flights from mid June

Earlier this week, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps raised hopes that some foreign holidays could be salvaged however the Prime Minister's official spokesman said it was 'an option under consideration but not agreed Government policy'

Earlier this week, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps raised hopes that some foreign holidays could be salvaged however the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said it was ‘an option under consideration but not agreed Government policy’

Blanket quarantine measures now appear likely to be introduced towards the end of the month, despite warnings they will wreck the holiday plans of Britons and damage the UK tourism industry.  

Mr Shapps raised hopes that some foreign holidays could be salvaged on Monday when he told MPs he was investigating the possibility of allowing quarantine-free ‘air bridges’ to countries with low levels of infection.

But yesterday the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘It’s an option under consideration but not agreed Government policy.’

What is an air bridge? 

An ‘air bridge’ is typically used by the military to reach and supply territory across enemy lines.

One of the largest in history was used for the Berlin airlift after the Second World War.

That kept the Western-held area supplied between June 1948 and May 1949 when it was cut off by Soviet forces. 

Another famous air bridge was ‘The Hump’, which was the route over the Himalayas from India to resupply Chinese forces working with the Allies. 

A Whitehall source said: ‘The quarantine rules will be reviewed every three weeks but I think people would be unwise to book a foreign holiday in the expectation that an ‘air bridge’ will open up in time for the summer holidays.

‘It’s the sort of idea you might look at as you exit a quarantine system. But we are just getting started.’

Ministers are still finalising the details of the quarantine regime, but it is expected to include fines of at least £1,000 for those breaching the 14 days of self-isolation.

A minister involved in the talks said all arrivals would be stopped by Border Force agents and told to download the Government’s new coronavirus tracking app.

They will be asked to provide their address or details of where they are staying, and police or local authority officials will carry out spot checks to ensure the quarantine is not being breached.

Sources said there would be ‘very few’ exemptions.

Critics have questioned why the Government is tightening the rules at a time when some EU countries are easing travel restrictions and when many airlines have resumed UK flights.

Greek tourism minister Haris Theoharis had called on the Government to agree a no-quarantine pact with his country.

He told the BBC: ‘We feel that this is a time for us to start lifting restrictions and we urge other countries, the UK included, that as soon as we do that we would welcome reciprocity.’

The Greek islands, visited by three million Britons a year, have been in lockdown since March but hotels are due to open there on July 1. 

Beachgoers enjoy the sun at a  public beach in Piraeus near Athens, Greece, on May 18, after weeks of lockdown in the country

Beachgoers enjoy the sun at a  public beach in Piraeus near Athens, Greece, on May 18, after weeks of lockdown in the country

The country has escaped the worst of the pandemic, with just 165 deaths, and is desperate to welcome tourists back.

Ministers consider quarantine to be a vital part of efforts to prevent a second wave of coronavirus.

But airline bosses fear it will devastate the crippled travel industry. British Airways wanted to restore large-scale operations in July, but this now looks unlikely.

Virgin Atlantic have also indicated that flights will be pushed back to August ‘at the earliest’.

There are also concerns for the 20,000 British nationals still stranded abroad.

It is likely many will have to go into quarantine after returning as the rule could come into force as early as May 28.  

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has previously warned foreign summer holidays were unlikely this year, while Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said on Wednesday that domestic holidays could be possible by the beginning of July, if the rate of coronavirus infection was kept down. 

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