Covid travel curbs could cost London £6.6bn in overseas tourism

London will bear the brunt of an £11bn drop in revenue from overseas tourists resulting from the government’s continued tough restrictions on travel to England, according to research.

The Centre for Economic & Business Research (CEBR) study said the capital would suffer a loss of almost £7bn compared with levels of spending in the six-month period leading up to the pandemic, unless there was a marked pick up in the rest of the year.

The consultancy firm said London was being doubly hit because it was by far the most popular destination for international visitors, but was not getting the benefits of UK citizens taking their holidays at home this year.

According to the CEBR study, rules for travellers arriving in the UK were complex and tough, even after the relaxation in quarantine requirements for vaccinated travellers announced on Wednesday.

“Compared to many neighbouring countries which have taken a much more relaxed approach, even the best case scenario for international travel is still pretty onerous, meaning many potential visitors are still choosing to stay away,” it said.

Figures from Visit Britain, the national tourism agency, showed there was an 80% drop in spending by international visitors to England between the second half of 2019 and the same period of 2020.

Should the present restrictions remain in place throughout the rest of 2021, the CEBR said it expected £3.7bn in spending by international visitors – up on the 2020 value but still £10.7bn lower than pre-pandemic amount.

The report said London would account for almost two-thirds (£6.6bn) of the shortfall since it was unable to plug the gap with revenue from domestic tourism.

The CEBR said south-west England – a popular destination for UK holidaymakers – would cope best, with spending by all visitors at 83% of 2019 levels compared with just 38% in London.

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