The measures activated to control the spread of the coronavirus pandemic have had a major impact on lives and the economy. Social distancing, travel bans, temporary business closures, and stay-at-home orders have all become the norm. But many businesses are now looking beyond the uncertainty to more positive economic outcomes.
UK economy in trouble due to the lockdown
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has likened the economic damage caused by the coronavirus to be the worst economic crisis since the 1930’s Great Depression. Figures released by the Office for National Statistics show the UK’s GDP to have fallen by 2 per cent in the first quarter (January to March) of 2020. This is the largest fall since the fourth quarter of 2008, during the Great Financial Crisis.
The lockdown measures introduced to slow the spread of the virus are expected to have a long-term impact on the economy. The Bank of England’s Michael Saunders predicted a slow economic recovery in a webinar delivered on 28 May. However, he warns that the long-term impacts of the recession on business closures and job losses could be extensive. There was a risk of further damage to the UK economy, he said, particularly in the event of a second wave of the virus before the discovery of a vaccine.
A 29 May report in Gulf Today, quoting the BoE, said around half of those British businesses who have closed their doors temporarily are unsure when they will recommence trading. This continuing uncertainty is likely to hamper any quick economic recovery.
The increase in local travel
The UK has been one of the worst-hit countries in Europe for the number of coronavirus-infected cases reported. As a result, the lockdown introduced by the government on 23 March to slow the spread has brought daily life to a standstill.
The stringent measures are being eased slowly and Prime Minister Boris Johnson has outlined his stimulus package to boost the country’s economic activity.
One of the hardest-hit industries in the country is the tourism industry. However, British people are now being encouraged to visit local attractions as travel rules are eased. This will help local tourist sites recover from the lack of overseas visitors as a result of the travel bans on overseas visitors. Kathryn Davies, CEO of Visit Bath and head of tourism at Destination Bristol, told news platform CGTN that British people are being encouraged to see local attractions and reinvest their holiday money back into the local culture and region.
This may have long-term implications. Many British people will be more reluctant to travel overseas, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, and may prefer to travel locally. Focusing on encouraging local travel will be a key goal for the tourism industry and tourism boards.
Can the travel ban save some UK companies and shops from closing?
At the start of the COVID-19 emergency, the government acted swiftly to restrict travel within the UK except under emergency circumstances. This ban is now being eased. Yet the resilience learned by many businesses as they adapted to new conditions during the lockdown will stand them in good stead for the future.
One of the changes has been that many companies are now more flexible, allowing employees to work from home. Companies may consider this to be the future of employment. Indeed, this simple adaptation may have the effect of changing the workplace and helping many businesses to stay more flexible in the market. Similarly, many shops are selling more of their products online, a move that may help them adapt to changing business conditions, as more people shop online.
As restrictions within the UK gradually ease, many people may decide to spend more time in Britain, visiting local travel spots and having regular holidays at home instead of abroad. Keeping British tourism spots viable will have a knock-on effect on other businesses such as cafes, restaurants, and tradespeople providing services to tourist businesses.
There are positive signs of an economic recovery as the UK begins easing measures deployed to combat COVID-19. Changes brought on businesses may well help them adapt and recover beyond the crisis. British people’s lives have changed as well.
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