Embattled prime minister, Boris Johnson, has called on international tourists to visit the UK and enjoy the sights and sounds of “one of the most open countries in Europe”.
As testing and quarantine restrictions end for fully vaccinated visitors, the UK is ready to welcome visitors from around the globe for a year of events showcasing the breadth of culture, creativity and innovation on offer in the country, he said.
Events include her majesty the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games and Unboxed: Creativity in the UK.
It comes ahead of a new VisitBritain £10 million international marketing campaign targeting the most valuable visitor markets of Europe and the USA which, will launch in February.
Johnson said: “Thanks to the phenomenal success of our booster campaign and the extraordinary efforts of the public, the UK is officially one of the most open countries in Europe and ready to welcome visitors from across the globe.
“Now is a fantastic time to book a trip and enjoy the best the UK has to offer.”
The travel sector has been highly critical of the government throughout the past two years of border closures, quarantine and testing, so it remains to be seen how the latest initiative will be received.
Transport secretary, Grant Shapps, said: “We made the right calls at the right time and thanks to our vaccine and booster rollout it’s paying off – allowing us to safely remove nearly all Covid-19 travel restrictions for vaccinated travellers.
“We already have one of the most open economies in Europe with the least restrictions, and because of these changes we now have a travel sector to match it.
“This final step in our stable and safe full return to international travel is a major boost for UK tourism, setting Britain free ahead of the crucial half term and spring holiday season.”
VisitBritain’s multi-million-pound campaign will spotlight cities across the UK including London, Edinburgh and Cardiff which have been hit hard by the lack of international visitors.
VisitBritain chief executive, Sally Balcombe, said: “We know there is pent up demand for travel and our priority is to build back demand for Britain and visitor spending as quickly as possible, competing hard for international visitors who contribute billions to our economy.
“As well as messages of welcome and reassurance, we’re shining the spotlight on our vibrant and diverse cities.
“Telling the stories of our renowned heritage with a modern twist, our buzzing contemporary culture and innovative food and drink scene, we are showing that Britain is packed full of fresh and exciting experiences to come and see today.”
VisitBritain’s campaign will build on the government’s ambitious Tourism Recovery Plan published in June which aims to get domestic and international tourism back to pre-pandemic levels a year faster than independent forecasts predict.
The government claims to have backed tourism, hospitality and leisure organisations through the pandemic with more than £37 billion in funding and support.
This includes the ongoing cut to VAT, furlough and 100 per cent business rates relief for leisure, retail and hospitality businesses which have saved thousands of jobs and prevented many business closures.
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme at its peak supported 87 per cent of hospitality and entertainment businesses and a UK-wide VAT cut for the tourism sectors from 20 per cent to five per cent was in place until September.
It will remain at 12.5 per cent until the end of March to provide ongoing support for businesses.