Speaking in a debate on Aviation, Travel and Tourism, Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown raises concerns about the wider impact of lockdowns on tourism in the Cotswolds and the consequent loss of jobs and livelihoods in the area and calls on the Government to fully unlock on 21 June.
I am delighted to see my hon. Friend and neighbour, the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Robert Courts), at the Dispatch Box, and I am sure he will agree with me on one point. While Perthshire and Staffordshire vie for visitors, the Cotswolds are an even more special place to visit, with their architecture, landscapes and hospitality. Last year, sadly, saw a 76% decline in inbound tourism, and the impact of that on jobs and livelihoods is of great concern to many of the constituents I represent. UK airlines have already announced more than 30,000 job cuts. As others have said, as we make great strides with our own fantastic vaccination programme now being offered to all those over 25, we must accept that many countries do not have the same level of coverage with their own vaccine programmes. On the traffic light system, I would urge the Minister to give a little more notice when we move suddenly from green to amber. We saw the chaotic scenes last weekend as huge queues of unsocially distanced people waited for flights in Portugal.
The inbound tourism industry supports 490,000 jobs worth £2.8 billion, and the wider tourism industry supports 1.6 million people. Travel industry experts predict that tens of thousands of jobs are at risk, including Mountain Kingdoms Ltd, a travel agent based in Wotton-under-Edge. The real fear for such businesses, as the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Neale Hanvey) said, is that despite the generous schemes that the Government are offering now, if they are not allowed to operate when the furlough scheme comes to an end, they will be in deep trouble. This summer is vital for many tourist industries, to enable their sector to rebound. The week from 22 to 31 May was English Tourism Week in the Cotswolds, which was a great promotion. I visited a number of businesses, including the Tetbury Goods Shed, Wild Carrot and Quayles Cornerhouse Bistro. I fear for them if they are not allowed to open fully on 21 June.
The Health Secretary has given the figures: of the 12,000 cases of the delta variant, only three who had had two vaccinations were hospitalised. Throughout this pandemic there has been very little communication on the wider impact of lockdowns. The emails and letters I have had from constituents about jobs, businesses, paying the bills, their mental health and their children’s education have gone into the thousands. I have to say to the Minister that the policy is very risk averse. If we keep locking down every time we have a new variant, we will never unlock, so let us fully unlock on 21 June, and let us open up and attract more countries to green list travel on 28 June. Our citizens will then be really happy.