Bank Holidays are set aside throughout the United Kingdom as public holidays which often involve time off work, long weekends and an increase in spending. A number of Bank Holidays throughout April and May have been missed as a result of coronavirus lockdown, with tourist agency VisitBritain estimating £37billion could be lost as a result of COVID-19. However, the body has suggested an extra Bank Holiday, potentially coinciding with the school half-term break in October to boost the economy once again.
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And a prominent economist has added to the suggestion, stating this extra holiday could provide millions to the British economy.
Douglas McWilliams, deputy chair of the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), said an extra national holiday could swell the economy by £500million.
Mr McWilliams said: “This year it would be quite likely that the boosts to spending in retail, hospitality and catering from an extra bank holiday after a period of enforced abstinence might well be double the usual boost, adding up to as much as £440m.
“There could well be a further stimulus from tourism boosting the UK economy by an additional £50m. So a rough £500m a day boost from more spending.”
Mr McWilliams has also suggested a four day working week may also provide financial assistance to the UK.
The demand for extra bank holidays has always been high, however, it appears the ‘lost time’ throughout the coronavirus crisis has only swelled these desires.
In 2019, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) called for additional Bank Holidays in the UK, after it was argued the holiday entitlement in Britain was the stingiest in the European Union.
TUC chiefs urged the government in England and Wales to match the average number of Bank Holidays in the EU, which currently stands at 12.
The CEBR previously argued bank holidays were too costly, and in 2012, asked: “Do we really need so many?”
Mr McWilliam’s announcement, then, appears to show the opinions of the thinktank are changing to meet the desires of the wider British public.
Last year the CEBR said its previous estimates that bank holidays cost the British economy £2.3billion per day were in fact proven to be much lower upon further research.
This is because the organisation believes lost productivity is likely to be made up elsewhere.
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Patricia Yates, acting chief executive of VisitBritain stressed the need to generate tourism throughout the year, and not solely in the summer months of July and August, where bank holidays traditionally fall.
She added: “Given that it has to be the year of domestic tourism, there’s a real job to be done there in convincing people that it is socially responsible to travel and enjoy a holiday, and that it is safe to do so.”
Ms Yates stated the 2020 tourism season had been effectively “lost” as a result of the coronavirus crisis, and that extra help was needed to make it through until next spring.
However, it is as of yet unclear whether the government will take up the proposals of VisitBritain.
Downing Street stated the proposal would be visited in due course, with the government supporting the tourism industry throughout lockdown.
A spokesperson said: “It is worth acknowledging that an extra bank holiday comes with economic costs.”
Holiday resorts and tourism destinations are anticipating government announcements, but have tentative plans to open at the end of May.
However, there is uncertainty as to whether hesitancy surrounding the virus will stop tourist visits, or whether removal of lockdown could create a holiday boom.
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