The VisitEngland boss talks about how the ‘We’re Good to Go’ scheme may be expanded for more of a focus on groups and what’s being done to help the sector. 

A group enjoying fish and chips in Brighton

Source: ©VisitBritain & Rod Edwards

There’s an emphasis on UK ‘staycations’ for the rest of the summer and beyond. 

Thousands of businesses have signed up for the ‘We’re Good to Go’ standard, is there anything specific for places that are able to welcome groups?

Andrew Stokes, director of VisitEngland

Source: Anna Berry

The whole point of the ‘We’re Good to Go’ standard is that businesses are signing up to say they’re following government guidance so that would naturally include some guidance related to group visits anyway, the hygiene and social distancing etc. 

However, VisitEngland is in the process of working with the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) and the Coach Tourism Association (CTA) to find out how they can become involved in having something more group focussed. 

What’s your view on places being able to welcome groups again?

Groups and coach travel are such a valuable part of our industry. While I understand that there will be limitations, I would urge that wherever possible we support the group industry, if we can do so within the guidelines.

We have heard from industry and from our own research that it has been a confidence issue with travel but that people have felt confident enough to perhaps take a short break and that they are confident that places are ready and are following guidance to be able to welcome them back. This is just as important in the group sector - that we continue to build that confidence and rebuild tourism in the UK. 

What else can we do across group travel to increase that confidence?

I understand that coach travel is a particular issue at the moment and I know there are representations being made to the Government about specific guidance. It’s a bit like theatres with the difficulties they face in social distancing especially, there are certain aspects of our industry that are particularly challenging.

With tourism being the hardest hit sector by the pandemic, we do need to see businesses get back on their feet as soon as possible. With that in mind we are looking to extend the season with a campaign being launched after the August bank holiday focussing on short breaks in the UK. 

What we are seeing is while there’s a view that things will not get back to normal by the end of the year, there’s an increase in people’s belief that they might be able to take a short break and have a staycation this year. 

Is there anything else that VisitEngland is doing to help group tourism?

We support group tourism and recognise its importance and have always done so. There will be a role for it in our autumn campaign and we’re in the process of looking at that and talking to industry bodies. 

Many coach/tour operators feel that they’ve been left out regarding government support, what’s your view on that? 

There has been government support across the whole industry. That said, I know that as a sector it has been challenging and I know that as quickly as they can, the Government is considering all of the issues. The issue of consumer confidence is an important one – we know that people are likely to be more interested in destinations that may be served well by group travel. 

How important is it that we get groups out and about again?

It’s vitally important. Our industry is multi-faceted, there are elements of our industry that absolutely rely on group travel – if those businesses don’t start their recovery we may lose some of them. So it’s really important we all work together to support the whole industry.