THE public have been urged to re-book cancelled holidays in the British countryside once the Covid-19 crisis is over, or else it could “cripple” the rural sector.

Millions of people have had to cancel their holiday plans because of the spread of the coronavirus in the UK.

But the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), which represents 5,000 rural tourism businesses, is now urging them to re-book “once it is safe to do so”.

Rural tourism is worth £18.5 billion a year to the economy and employs more than 600,000 people.

Yet, almost overnight, many businesses were forced to shut down for an unknown period of time. According to the CLA, this is having “crippling consequences”.

Many farms now provide holiday lets, camping, bed and breakfasts and farm stays as a way to support their business.

But these farmers, who have already suffered from flooding and uncertain trading conditions, now face another hammering to their income.

“They need the support of British holidaymakers after this crisis is over,” the CLA said: “Choosing a ‘staycation’ is not only greener, but is a great way to support the local economy.”

The land owner group is now seeking reassurances from the UK government on support for the sector, such as fast payments of financial support to struggling firms, including wage cost support.

The CLA is calling for a clear definition of what businesses make up the tourism industry so every firm that needs it can access relevant government support schemes.

A flexible approach from the insurance industry when dealing with rural tourism business claims is also needed, as is guidance on what will happen to support schemes in the next three to six months so businesses can put in place recovery plans.

CLA vice-president, Victoria Vyvyan said thousands of rural businesses will ‘go bust’ without the public’s support.

“Once the coronavirus pandemic is over, millions of people will want to take a well-deserved break, especially those who have cancelled their holiday,” she said.