You will have seen or heard the outline proposals for the extension of furlough announced very earlier today. To confirm a further extension of four full months from the current end date of June. During July there will be no change to the current scheme. During August through to end of October the scheme will be more flexible to allow for part-time working during furlough. The rate of furlough pay will remain unchanged for the individual but the employer will be expected to pay a proportion of the guaranteed 80% rate. The critical details around what flexible looks like and how the tapering actually works and the division of costs are yet to be announced. These announcements may be some days or even weeks away.
With a not before date of 4 July for “stage 3” when it is anticipated that the majority of tourism business might start to reopen and a tapering of furlough commencing at the start of August running through to the end of October, you can start to sense the possible route forward. The plan might be to start reopen parts of the tourism industry in July in time to exploit that c 10-week main summer school holiday window late July through to early September and to pick up on the late should months September through to the end of October, including the October half term. It is of course pure supposition.
Normal, established patterns of business may not fully apply in the current, extraordinary circumstances? Some school children may not be tied to attending school in July for example? Overseas travel, if there is any, may still involve 14 days isolation on return making it impractical for many. Add to that the Health Secretary comment today: “………it is unlikely that big, lavish international holidays are going to be possible for this summer”, and you have on the one hand the prospect of a restricted window of opportunity and limitations on businesses’ ability to trade but on the other a potentially bigger market, both in and out of the normal peak summer school holiday period, with potentially far fewer alternatives for UK residents but to look to holiday at home. The key to success, isn’t just about being open and trading but being open and able to generate worthwhile profit, capable of lifting the businesses out the trouble they are already in and to sustain them into and beyond the generally lean winter months. It is still far from clear whether all businesses will be able to trade at a worthwhile level for long enough to succeed.
Of all the items in the Government’s plans previewed in the PM’s statement and detailed in yesterday’s publication the unrestricted travel for exercise in public open space in England, seems to have triggered the greatest immediate concern amongst destination manager and management interests. It would appear that local resentment and resistance to such free movement has already been recognised by government. However, having spoken to and received email updates from members today my understanding is that local reaction is but one small but significant part of the problem. There are a whole raft of practical issues from the lack of open public and private business toilet facilities, to free or paid for parking, staffing, cleansing, maintenance and so on that all popular destinations are facing. These are all set against a backdrop of a lack of financial and staff resource to manage a potential influx of visitor who, for the time being at least, will contribute little or nothing to either business or public revenue streams. Even if you open the public toilets how do you operate them safely. If you resume paid for parking how do you handle cash payments and so on? I also believe that local Police are expressing serious concerns about enforcing social distancing one visitors arrive in any great numbers?
Any additional examples of the known or predicted issues that will be faced by destinations would be welcomed. I have already alerted colleague nationally to the perceived issues; it would now be really useful to confirm and further evidence this.