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Tourism sector should re-open, say industry leaders

The three-month Covid-19 lockdown has seen the industry closed and fears many businesses will not survive the pandemic.

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A general view of Gorran Haven in Cornwall (David Davies/PA)

A general view of Gorran Haven in Cornwall (David Davies/PA)

A general view of Gorran Haven in Cornwall (David Davies/PA)

Hospitality and tourism bosses are calling on the Government to confirm when the tourism industry can return to trading.

There are fears that if the sector does re-open on July 4 it could lead to second spike in coronavirus cases as tourists flood to holiday destinations.

Tourism bosses had been predicting a bumper year for visitors, with green tourism driving a greater number of domestic holidaymakers to hotspots.

But instead the three-month lockdown has seen the industry closed and fears many businesses will not survive the pandemic.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the trade body UKHospitality, said: “We need confirmation of the reopening date for hospitality businesses without any further delay.

“Businesses need time to prepare and the first step in giving them some much-needed clarity is confirmation of when they can open their doors again.

“This is particularly important for hotels and tourism, where 60% of bookings are made more than two weeks in advance.”

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People walk on the Tolcarne beach in Newquay (Ben Birchall/PA)

People walk on the Tolcarne beach in Newquay (Ben Birchall/PA)

PA

People walk on the Tolcarne beach in Newquay (Ben Birchall/PA)

Recent figures laid bare the economic toll taken by lockdown, with gross domestic product (GDP) plunging a record 20.4% in April.

“A review of the two-metre social distancing rule is a positive show of intent for hospitality but with less than three weeks to the proposed re-opening date for our sector, a crucial element of certainty is conspicuously absent,” Ms Nicholls said.

In Cornwall, local leaders are to consider a report which recommends lobbying the Government to extend the furlough scheme to spring 2021 for the tourism sector.

Cornwall Council said the estimated loss to the tourism sector in the county will be £630 million to the end of June.

Malcolm Bell, chief executive of Visit Cornwall, said if tourism and hospitality businesses could re-open safely, they should.

“There are tens of thousands of jobs at risk here, as well as the supply chain,” he said.

“When it is one of the bedrocks of your economy you do need to get it going to help the rest of the economy.”

He said hotels, campsites and holiday parks would most likely re-open with reduced capacity, meaning that it was unlikely Cornwall would be overwhelmed by tourists this summer.

“Our message to people is plan and book for a safe and great holiday,” he said.

Were Cornwall benefit from what remains of the 2020 tourist season, it would still be likely that Cornish businesses would need some financial support because of the losses already incurred.

Mr Bell said he supported calls for the furlough scheme to be extended until next year for the tourism industry with flexibility to support part-time working.

“That might make more sense to the Government than paying people benefits,” he said.

“What we want to do in Cornwall is develop the argument and proposition the Government while at the same time do the best we can to safely operate.”

He also called for some flexibility to the two-metre social distancing rule which would benefit cafes and restaurants.

“If a restaurant can get the layout right to achieve back to back dining at one metre while keeping the service and the movement safe, that would help pubs, cafes and restaurants, but remain two metres in other areas,” he said.

“I think the public would understand and that would change restaurant capacity from 30% to 60 or 70%.”

In Wales, tourism is worth £3.2 billion to the local economy and supports 40,000 jobs and the Welsh Government is under pressure to ease the lockdown restrictions to help the industry.

Secretary of State for Wales Simon Hart said in a letter to Senedd members and councillors that a failure to reopen its tourism and hospitality industries “risks plunging communities into deprivation”.

The Welsh Government hit back at Conservative MP’s letter, with its minister for international relations, Baroness Eluned Morgan, accusing him of using his office as a “lobbying outfit for the UK Government”.

PA