According to GlobalData, domestic tourism demand in the UK is expected to recover this year, reaching 123.3 million domestic return trips. However, the recent announcement of rail strikes could now extend this prediction.
Tourism contributes significantly to the GDP of the country. Rail strikes during the tourism revival may reduce its contribution. The tourism industry in the UK contributed $109.4 billion to the country’s GDP in 2019, the last normal year before Covid-19, demonstrating that the industry is important for economic growth.
Threat of extended rail strikes looms
The strikes over job security and wages are due to problems created by the pandemic. The government has directed railway companies to decrease their spending by 10%, and the Treasury has directed that rail subsidies should be lowered. Railway workers have developed an unfavourable attitude towards the government as a result of these conditions that do not play into their hands.
These strikes will pose a problem for the general population, who are already price-sensitive due to rising living costs, and especially for those who have already purchased a season pass, as they will have to find an alternate travel option, which will increase the cost of travelling for many. During the strikes, many that have the means will work from home, which will negatively impact domestic business travel and therefore domestic tourism recovery.
The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) has called for three 24-hour strikes in a week in late June, including a Saturday. These strikes could be the start of multiple strikes in the future unless workers’ demands are met by the government, which would further deter bookings for domestic leisure and business holidays this summer. ScotRail has stated it will have to cancel more than 90% of its usual services when the strike occurs, this will be detrimental to domestic tourism recovery in Scotland, with cities and rural destinations set to experience a drop in visitation as the peak season arrives.
Appropriate steps should be taken to minimise risks
The UK Government and RMT need to increase communication to minimise the inconvenience that is set to hamper the public. Specific routes that are vital for domestic tourism growth need to be saved, otherwise the strong growth in domestic trips that has been seen during 2022 will be undone.
The parties involved should also consider operating journeys for a limited time within the day, allowing passengers to at least reach their destination, if not for their intended time. This option could reduce the havoc that will impact travellers caused by the rail strikes and may also minimise the negative impact it has on domestic tourism recovery.