The government ban on term time holidays for school children has attracted wide criticism from parents and now it seems that the tourism industry is starting to feel its effect.
Robert Hartley, owner of Trevornick Holiday Park, a five star camp site at Holywell Bay in Cornwall has experienced a drop in term time bookings, which he attributes to the ban: “We have had a fantastic summer, but we were down 25 per cent for bookings in June, and September is looking the same. The weather has been great, and everything in our favour, so the only thing it can be down to is the term time holiday ban. Others I’ve spoken to in the industry, from visitor attractions to hotels, are saying the same.”
The new regulations mean that parents are fined £60 per parent, per child, per period of absence, rising to £120 if not paid within 21 days. Recent research by the BBC found that the number of parents who have been fined for their children’s poor attendance has risen sharply since the ban was introduced in September last year. It found that almost 64,000 fines had been issued since September 2013 – an increase of almost 70 per cent.
“The majority of our visitors are from the UK, particularly the Midlands, where it seems the ban is being enforced very rigorously. Our visitors booked during term time for many reasons – for a lot of people it was the only time they could get time off together as a family. These are not irresponsible people or bad parents – just ordinary folk who want to enjoy a relaxing time as a family,” adds Robert.
The government plans to introduce new rules allowing schools power to choose their own term dates, which may mean that some families are able to book holidays outside the current peak periods.
Will that be enough to help the industry? Robert responds: “Only time will tell. It struck me that the previous situation, which gave more flexibility to schools to decide what was best on a case by case basis, was working pretty well, so why change it?
“We have had a great summer and many tourism businesses are doing better than previous years, but we can’t be complacent. This is a fragile industry and success often relies on encouraging more visitors in the low season. Government intervention like this just serves to make all of our lives much harder.”