A new rail ticket is being planned to launch later this summer for “staycationers” who are looking for holidays and short breaks within the UK. It’s part of a wider plan announced by the government to boost the UK tourism industry this year as it recovers from the pandemic.
Although details about the new rail travel pass are not being revealed yet, the government confirms that it will “build on the success of the BritRail pass, which is sold through VisitBritain and currently gives international visitors flexible travel across the country”.
The BritRail pass is one of those dark secrets of the UK rail network as it gives overseas visitors a flexible travel deal that’s similar to the UK’s existing All Line Rover, but often at a much lower cost.
The government’s Tourism Recovery Plan, says that “The aim is to launch this new domestic rail tourism product later in the year, subject to a successful business case being developed.”
It’s worth keeping an eye on the small print when it’s launched though, as the existing Network RailCards offer a third off train fares and may offer a better deal, and they are valid right now.
Another related initiative will be a £10 million National Lottery Days Out scheme in the autumn to encourage people to visit attractions supported by Lottery funding, with players having the chance to claim vouchers to redeem at tourist attractions across the UK during the traditionally quieter times of September 2021 to March 2022.
Note that the vouchers kick in at the same time as the current temporary VAT cut for the tourism and hospitality sectors partially expires, so VAT will rise from the current 5% to 12.5%. Depending on the types of deals being offered closer to the date, it may be cheaper to visit in August when VAT is lower.
It’s notable that when we talk about tourism, we tend to think of overseas visitors, especially in London. However, domestic tourism as measured by visits requiring at least an overnight stay somewhere is more than double the overseas visitor numbers (99 million vs 41 million in 2019). Domestic visits are also spread far more evenly around the UK than international visits, so repairing domestic tourism will be better for the wider economy.
The government has set itself a target of recovering the domestic tourism industry to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2022, although overseas tourism is more uncertain at the moment.