UK Government’s recent decision to cancel plans for a rail pass for UK ‘staycationers’ has been met with disappointment and criticism from hospitality and tourism groups, as well as local Councillors.

The proposed ticket, modelled on the successful BritRail pass sold through VisitBritain, would have allowed unlimited train journeys on most lines across England, Wales, and Scotland, encouraging visitors to travel to attractions across the country and discover the country’s hidden gems.

Labour Councillors in Sheffield believe the proposal could have given a “much needed boost” to small businesses in and around Sheffield.

Councillor Ben Miskell, Sheffield Labour’s lead for Economic Development, said:

“A rail pass for staycationers would have given a much needed boost to small businesses in and around Sheffield. As the Outdoor City, with great rail links to the Peak District, we want as many people as possible to have the opportunity to explore Sheffield’s wonders.

“Incentivising people to travel here by rail, and shopping in our fantastic small businesses while they do, would be a great way to support our struggling tourism and hospitality industries in one go.”

Councillor Ben Miskell, Labour
Councillor Ben Miskell, Labour's lead for Economic Development at Sheffield Train Station

The cancellation of the rail pass is a blow to the tourism industry, which has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. With international travel still uncertain, domestic tourism is more important than ever before, and the rail pass would have been a major boon for the industry. The pass would have greatly bolstered tourism by encouraging visitors to travel to attractions across the country, letting them discover the hidden gems of places like Sheffield and supporting local economies.

Tourism is a vital part of the UK economy, with domestic tourism alone worth £91.6 billion in 2019. The cancellation of the rail pass will not only impact the tourism industry but also local businesses and communities that rely on tourism for their livelihoods. Councillors believe that the rail pass would have allowed visitors to explore the city’s attractions more easily, increasing footfall in local businesses and supporting the wider economy.

Councillor Minesh Parekh, who sits on the Council’s Economic Development committee, said:

“It’s ridiculous to see DCMS [Digital, Culture, Media and Sport] say that a staycation rail pass ‘would not be commercially viable’. Encouraging people to travel within the country by train—stopping in areas across the country rather than travelling abroad, and supporting small businesses as they do—is a clear case of a policy that delivers a multitude of benefits.

“It’s so disappointing to see the Government miss this opportunity to support the tourism industry and promote domestic travel.”

Sheffield Labour Councillors Ben Miskell (left) and Minesh Parekh (right)
Sheffield Labour Councillors Ben Miskell (left) and Minesh Parekh (right)

Speaking to the Guardian, Richard Toomer, the executive director of the Tourism Alliance, said that the pass would have been “a great way to encourage people to explore the regions and nations of the UK”, adding that it would have supported travellers who are “keenly aware of wanting to travel sustainably”.

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