THE TOURISM minister has urged elderly citizens to 'go big or stay home' in an effort to boost the UK travel industry.
Nigel Huddleston called for OAPs to spend lavishly and embrace holidays closer to home.
In a statement yesterday Mr Huddleston said: 'Now is the time to earn your citizenship. You've been vaccinated. You're elderly. You're privileged. It's time to spend that saved cash. Go big or stay home.'
Mr Huddleston added: 'We need to give the travel industry a boost. Towns and cities across the UK are packed full of arts, culture and heritage offerings, beautiful parks, architectural gems and world-class visitor attractions. Who doesn't want to explore Birmingham.'
Non-essential international travel is banned until May 17, with Ministers locked in discussions about whether to allow the resumption of foreign holidays at that point. However, hotels, B&Bs or hostels can open their doors on that date.
Patricia Jackson, 77, of Stockport, Greater Manchester, said: 'It's come as a bit of a surprise. I was planning to go for a coffee and cake at my local cafe but I'm changing my plans. Now I've booked for a long weekend at The Langham. It's cost me £1,080 but if that's what I've got to do then I guess I'm going. At least I get a courtyard view and free Wi-Fi.'
Mr Huddleston's comments have sparked a backlash among political party leaders and charities.
A Labour spokesman said OAPs should 'not take instructions from a party which can't control its own spending'.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, warned this could impact older Britons. She told The Daily Bellow: 'As the UK scales up efforts to restart the domestic travel industry, it's crucial we do it in a way that is affordable for our older population. That means [OAPs] not blowing wads of cash chartering a helicopter for a weekend break on the Isle of Wight.'
A UK Government spokesman said: 'If your nan or granddad is a saver, it's time to get them to flash the cash and help the travel industry restart and regenerate. If they're reluctant to go on a staycation themselves, tell them you'd love a week at a country home. Cliveden House [pictured], for example, is a steal at £450 a night.'