There are growing calls for a special recovery fund to be set up for the tourism and hospitality industry that’s been pushed into economic freefall as a result of the pandemic.
According to Jim Jones, the chief executive of North Wales Tourism, it was also essential that existing financial support measures were extended to help them survive 2021.
Thousands of jobs had already been lost and the scale of the financial disaster was “cataclysmic”.
Visit Britain was forecasting that during the pandemic, tourism revenues had fallen by £68.8 billion cross the UK, while in North Wales a recent study had shown there had been a devastating drop of £2.17 billion in the income generation by the sector.
The recovery fund was among a package of measures being sought by members of North Wales Tourism who responded to a survey.
Other ideas included mortgage holiday extensions and pegging VAT to 5% especially for accommodation providers.
It was also crucial that the Job Retention Scheme, the Self Employment Incomes Support Scheme and business rates relief were extended through the 2021/22 financial year.
They are also seeking assurances from the Welsh Government that the tourism and hospitality industry will be allowed to open over Easter, with the rollout of vaccines providing hope that this was a realistic possibility.
Mr Jones said: “The tourism and hospitality has seen a disastrous loss of £2.17 billion to the economy of North Wales. That’s a loss of 63% and a shrinkage in the sector to levels from over 20 years ago.
“This is a huge hammer blow. Prior to the Covid crisis, we were celebrating that in 2019 tourism had attracted record numbers of visitors and revenue had risen to an all-time high of £3.6 billion.
“Until the pandemic struck, the visitor economy was continuing to grow strongly and provided jobs for more than 43.000 people. But 2020 has turned our lives upside down and our tourism and many hospitality businesses have been teetering on the edge of failure. Many have sadly already gone under. Many jobs have been lost.
“The 63% shrinkage is in real terms does not take into account how much the economy was predicted to grow in the last year. If you factor in the expected growth, then the losses are even starker.
“To add to our economic woes, the recent research commissioned by the North Wales & Mersey Dee Business Council and North Wales Tourism showed up to 80% of business owners are experiencing a deterioration in their mental and physical health. The stresses for many in this sector are taking a real toll on individuals and families.
“Many people in the Industry have applied for the new round of Economic Resilience Fund with no glitches reported with the process this time. It appears to have been relatively straightforward. This is really good news and I’m pleased lessons have been learnt because this is so important to get right. Hopefully, businesses won’t have to wait long to find out if they were successful and to get the help they need.
“However, there are still a lot of businesses and business people falling through the cracks for eligibility and access to help. I urge the Welsh Government to put a package of support together to help them also.
“We have asked our North Wales Tourism members what they believe will help them to open up and support them on the road to recovery. Nearly all the respondents’ feedback was consistent:
- A clear consensus was that if the industry is to move forward and gain the real recognition it deserves, then it is more important than ever that the tourism and hospitality sector is credited with its true economic input into the Welsh economy and recognised as such.
- Business Funds – Extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and the Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS)
- Business Rates Relief – Business Rates Relief for tourism business needs to be extended through the 2021/22 financial year.
- VAT to stay at 5% especially for accommodation, potential trade-offs with other areas.
- A Sustainable Funding Mechanism for Destination Management Organisations (DMOs) – need for Destination Management Organisation to develop and implement tourism recovery plans for their area.
- The Government need to be aware that those businesses that took out Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme will need to start their capital and interest payments in April or soon after. The ongoing pandemic and subsequent lockdowns has given businesses little chance for business recovery and they will cause a lot of strain on cash flow and job security.
- Create a tourism and hospitality recovery fund
- Mortgage holiday extensions, more pressure on the banks to extend this.
- Easter opening is critical!
“There is still uncertainty and no clear plan on when the sector will be allowed to open.
“We are hopeful that Welsh Government will unveil an action plan to reopen our borders and restart the tourism and hospitality sector as soon as they believe it is safe to do so.
“I foresee there will be challenges for places like Snowdonia National Park and the Clwydian Range to manage the influx of visitors appropriately.
“Businesses will need this information on opening in a timely manner with plenty of advance notice so they can be prepared.
“The framework is already in place, most businesses already invested heavily in becoming “covid-secure” in 2020 and will be ready to welcome back visitors safely as soon as they are allowed to do so.
“On a more positive note, there is a lot to be optimistic about in 2021. The multiple vaccines being rolled out are obviously a source of great hope with the number of people across North Wales receiving the vaccine now been increased significantly.
“It’s poignant for us that the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine is being manufactured here in North Wales by the pharmaceutical company Wockhardt at their base in Wrexham.
“At North Wales Tourism we look forward to going back out to market with our marketing plans showcasing the best of North Wales.
“Our region has not lost any of its beauty or appeal in the last year and we know that once people are allowed to visit, they will come back and hopefully our businesses can try and get back on track to some form of normality.
“It shouldn’t take long for us to regain our confidence as an outward-looking confident world class region.”