In reality, there are no words that can express the dilemma that we are all in. Our sympathy is first and foremost with all those who are having to deal with the virus, either because they have been directly touched by it in some way or they are dealing with it on the front line. At a time of any crisis, it has been heartening to see people and organisations (within the sector) coming together and working for the common good. Such an approach will be necessary in the time ahead to build firmer foundations and to secure market opportunities within the recovery period.
For tourism it is difficult at this moment to find clarity and solid ground, but what we do know for sure is tourism has changed. Not just for Wales, but for all countries across the world. Problems and challenges that we are grappling with are being shared globally - and within such a short timeframe these often life changing problems have not been easy to solve. The last week has witnessed unprecedented change. Without doubt tourism in the future will need to reset and move forward in a very different way. But move forward in a way that will present both challenges - and more importantly opportunities.
The support and recognition given to our industry by Central Government has exceeded expectations and we must be grateful for financial measures put in place. At a time when many businesses face closure, with significant loss of jobs, Govt intervention if it is delivered effectively and efficiently will, we hope, ensure survival for many, although we recognise not all.Whilst there is still much to do to protect businesses, we must build on the lifeline given.
Needless to say the Tourism industry in Wales is in shock. The timing of the crisis at the beginning of the season, after investment has been made during the winter, compounding cash flow pressures could not have been worse. No customers = no income = possible business closure.
The WTA and our partners have been engaged in putting the case before Government for support and we recognise the UK and Welsh Govt financial support packages for tourism businesses at this unprecedented time. Small business grants, interest free loans and 80% coverage of wages we have been informed that this will save some businesses and circa one million jobs in tourism and hospitality across the UK. However, we also recognise that this may not be enough for many to weather the storm.
Finally, rest assured the WTA has been working hard on behalf of businesses to represent tourism interests, to highlight current problems... and whilst lobbying has been successful, more support is needed to safeguard our industry, particularly those who are self employed. Whilst we recognise the limitations of the system, it is a high priority for businesses to be able to access monies from support packages quickly. The Challenge is going to be to help businesses survive and also to be ready and prepared for the recovery after the virus abates.
TIER UPDATE - The World Health Organisation has a global map that reports daily on the global cases.
Summary of daily Government briefing - The Prime Minister did not announce any further measures, instead he gave giving a short update followed by Q&A.
Latest Government advice and links
COVID-19 tourism industry impact survey VisitBritain/VisitEngland has modified and reopened their tracker survey, they will be conducting it regularly to monitor the impact on all aspects of the UK tourism industry. The results will provide impact data to brief Ministers, the Government and COBR to help support the industry through these challenging times.
Please circulate the survey to your members. The survey will close 17.00 Monday 30 March.
Key Workers - In the guidance that was issued last night ordering accommodation businesses to close, an exemption was made for Key Workers. Obviously, these workers would need to be staying in the accommodation specifically and solely to enable them to undertake their job. These could include:
Health and social care - This includes but is not limited to doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, social workers, care workers, and other frontline health and social care staff including volunteers; the support and specialist staff required to maintain the UK’s health and social care sector; those working as part of the health and social care supply chain, including producers and distributors of medicines and medical and personal protective equipment.
Education and childcare - This includes childcare, support and teaching staff, social workers and those specialist education professionals who must remain active during the COVID-19 response to deliver this approach.
Key public services - This includes those essential to the running of the justice system, religious staff, charities and workers delivering key frontline services, those responsible for the management of the deceased, and journalists and broadcasters who are providing public service broadcasting.
Local and national government - This only includes those administrative occupations essential to the effective delivery of the COVID-19 response, or delivering essential public services, such as the payment of benefits, including in government agencies and arms length bodies.
Food and other necessary goods - This includes those involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery, as well as those essential to the provision of other key goods (for example hygienic and veterinary medicines).
Public safety and national security - This includes police and support staff, Ministry of Defence civilians, contractor and armed forces personnel (those critical to the delivery of key defence and national security outputs and essential to the response to the COVID-19 pandemic), fire and rescue service employees (including support staff), National Crime Agency staff, those maintaining border security, prison and probation staff and other national security roles, including those overseas.
Transport - This includes those who will keep the air, water, road and rail passenger and freight transport modes operating during the COVID-19 response, including those working on transport systems through which supply chains pass.
Utilities, communication and financial services
This includes staff needed for essential financial services provision (including but not limited to workers in banks, building societies and financial market infrastructure), the oil, gas, electricity and water sectors (including sewerage), information technology and data infrastructure sector and primary industry supplies to continue during the COVID-19 response, as well as key staff working in the civil nuclear, chemicals, telecommunications (including but not limited to network operations, field engineering, call centre staff, IT and data infrastructure, 999 and 111 critical services), postal services and delivery, payments providers and waste disposal sectors.
Protection for Commercial Tenants - The Government announced that the Coronavirus Bill will include a measure preventing landlords evicting commercial tenants who are unable to pay their rent which will help support businesses.
The chairman of an organisation that represents more than 600 tourism and hospitality businesses across Mid Wales has praised members for taking the responsible decision to close down to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.
Rowland Rees-Evans, who leads MWT Cymru and is a director of the family-owned Penrhos holiday, golf and leisure park at Llanrhystyd, near Aberystwyth, says the shutdown is the correct decision but warns it will cause hardship to many businesses.
Having called on the Welsh Government for a specific cash package for the tourism and hospitality industry last week, MWT Cymru has welcomed the announcement by Economy Minister Ken Skates of £1.4 billion support for businesses and employees.
Mr Rees-Evans stresses the key importance of the industry to the Welsh economy, as it employs more than 100,000 people. It is crucial that tourism and hospitality businesses are supported so that they are in a position to welcome visitors following the Coronavirus crisis, he says.
Whilst holiday home owners and potential visitors were currently being told by the UK and Welsh Governments to stay at home and not travel to Mid Wales to prevent the spread of the virus, he emphasises that tourists will be welcomed with open arms when the crisis has passed.
“It’s an impossible situation – the perfect storm,” said Mr Rees-Evans. “We have all got a responsibility, regardless of our businesses, to minimise the risk. By taking the responsible decision to close down, we will hopefully reduce the impact of the virus on the NHS over the next few weeks.
“It has been a difficult decision for many businesses, but what is the alternative? What people must remember is that we are talking livelihoods and jobs.
“The responsibility to stop the spread of the disease does not fall on the businesses alone; it’s down to the public as well. They must obey Government guidance on unnecessary travel and social distancing.
“In the case of our business, we have found that customers are very responsible and understanding, and they are all waiting for the big party when we eventually emerge from the crisis.”
Thankfully, most businesses will be able to receive Government support payments to cover some of their losses, he adds. The industry urgently needs to hear from the Welsh Government about how to access this support, as their income will be zero following shutdown.
“The key is to retain our staff throughout the crisis, so that businesses are in a position to resume when the virus has cleared,” said Mr Rees-Evans. “We must show loyalty to our staff because without them we haven’t got a business.
“There are some small businesses that are in a desperate situation and need support quickly. Our industry also relies on many self-employed ancillary workers and I hope the Government will announce support for them soon.
“Whatever the support packages cost the Government it will pale into insignificance if all our businesses go bust. I would advise our members to talk to their banks and leasing companies because they are all listening and wanting to help.
“Be in no doubt, this crisis will end and we all look forward to that day.”
MWT Cymru’s staff, who are in close contact with the Welsh Government and its tourism arm, Visit Wales, are busy handling calls from worried businesses across Powys, Ceredigion and South Gwynedd.
The company is also gathering intelligence from Mid Wales businesses to feed back to the Bank of England and UK policymakers.
As the scale of Coronavirus and its impact on the industry comes into sharper focus, MWT Cymru’s chief executive Val Hawkins and her team remain committed to supporting its members and their employees.
Rowland Rees-Evans, MWT Cymru’s chairman.
The UK Government has just announced the launch of the business support measures and the associated access website:
As part of this they have also launched a dedicated website that collates information on the support available for businesses which you will want to bookmark and send to members. https://www.businesssupport.gov.uk/coronavirus-business-support/
The main points from the PM’s briefing of the (20/03/20) were:
The Enforcement of Business Closures - The legal requirement forcing listed businesses to close (restaurants, pubs etc) came into force on 21st March. Environmental Health and Trading Standards officers, with police support if appropriate, will work together to issue prohibition notices challenging unsafe behaviours where businesses do not follow these restrictions. The fines for non-compliance are unlimited.
Permission for Pubs and Restaurants to Operate as Takeaways - The government is introducing a time limited permitted development right through secondary legislation (negative SI) to allow the temporary change of use of a pub (A4 - drinking establishment) and a restaurant (A3 – restaurants and cafes) to a hot-food take away for a period of up to 12 months.
New Government Structures to Coordinate Response to Coronavirus
COBRA have set up a series of sub-committees to focus on different aspects of the outbreak. These are:
Tourism is represented on the UK Economic and Business sub-committee by the Culture Secretary with the Tourism Industry Council being the roundtable for the Sector that feeds-in.
WTA Chair Confirmation of Package of Measures for Welsh Tourism Businesses direct from Secretary of State for Wales
Andrew Campbell, WTA Chair gets confirmation of package of measures for Welsh Tourism Businesses direct from Simon Hart MP, Secretary of State for Wales
Andrew Campbell, Chair of the Wales Tourism Alliance has this morning spoken with the Secretary of State for Wales Rt Hon Simon Hart MP to seek clarity as to what can be done to support tourism businesses through the unspecified period of disruption being caused by COVID-19.
Andrew raised many of the concerns that the industry has with Simon Hart, particularly with regard to the loss of the forthcoming season and the ability of our businesses to meet business costs with little or no income at all for an unspecified period.
In response the Secretary of State has confirmed that:
- There will be parity for Wales with the suite of measures announced yesterday by the Chancellor. See details below.
- Clarity will be provided to businesses and much of the access will be via local authorities.
- That there will be measures put in place to ensure that businesses are able to access the support. The WTA has asked specifically for a helpline to assist.
- Following the cancellation of the Tourism Cross Party Group meetings, we have requested the establishment of a COBR style group that includes the WTA and other key tourism bodies.
In brief, the Chancellor’s announcement included the following package of measures:
· a statutory sick pay relief package for SMEs
· a 12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses
· small business grant funding of £10,000 for all business in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief
· grant funding of £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with property with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000
· the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme offering loans of up to £5 million for SMEs through the British Business Bank
· a new lending facility from the Bank of England to help support liquidity among larger firms, helping them bridge coronavirus disruption to their cash flows through loans
· the HMRC Time To Pay Scheme
Full details can be found here: https://gov.wales/ministers-announce-new-14bn-business-support-package
The UK Government held the second of its new daily briefings on the UK approach to tackling COVID 19. The Prime Minister reiterated the government’s approach and was joined by Chancellor Rishi Sunak who outlined a rescue package, in addition to the £12bn announced in the budget. Key points:
Tourism Industry Council meeting - A meeting of the Tourism Industry Council was held yesterday led by the Secretary of State and attended by a number of industry reps (including ALVA, UKinbound. UK Hospitality, ABTA, Hilton Hotels). The WTA is hoping to attend the next meeting. Key asks of Government raised at the TIER meeting reiterated points from today’s TIER meeting, calling for urgent/immediate action as follows:
The WTA is continuing to chase the UK Government advice for tourism businesses and will share as soon as it is available.
Message to Members - Wales Tourism Alliance Covid-19 Statement
Through continuing conversations with many of our members, together with information received from media coverage, the WTA is fully aware of pressures being experienced by tourism businesses through the contraction of the UK economy. Increasing levels of cancellations are being reported across the sector with resultant impacts upon cash flow. Trading patterns are evolving in unprecedented and unexpected fashion. Operational challenges are being presented by ever increasing ‘stay at home’ employees. Without doubt the sector is facing high levels of business closures if immediate action and support is not received, with resultant impacts upon communities across the country.
The Budget Statement announced last week introduced a number of measures across the UK in an attempt to address impacts created by the outbreak of Covid-19 virus. The measures appeared helpful, but we are now in need of greater clarity from Welsh Government concerning the detail. In other words how the detail applies to tourism businesses in Wales. Businesses need to know as a matter of some urgency if measures are applicable – and if so, how they can be accessed and implemented.
Whilst we note and appreciate that the Welsh Government, via Visit Wales, are monitoring the impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on the tourism sector, businesses are now in need of greater direction and guidance of actions that need to be taken to address this fast moving and unfolding situation. As mentioned, tourism businesses are reporting back increasingly a demise in visitor numbers, forward bookings and cancellations. Therefore, as a matter of priority it is important that we gain a series of commitments as soon as possible, whereby the Welsh Government uses its devolved powers to provide tailored support that will kick in within a specific timeline. For example:
- Measures to support tourism industry employers and employees
- Additional campaign effort aimed at our target market stating our unique ‘rural and coastal product’ as soon as it is ethically and sensitively sound to do so – with a clear ‘Wales is open for business’ message.
- A clear statement as to the financial support that will be available via the UK Government or tailored Welsh Government action.
Tourism is a key economic driver for Wales. It is the lifeblood of many rural and coastal communities. It generates £6 billion to the national economy each year and it must be supported at this very challenging time. If measures are put in place now, then businesses will be ready to bounce back once the crisis has passed. And bounce back stronger.
Unfortunately, our Cross party meeting at the Senedd on the 24th March 2020 has now been cancelled, but we are still seeking a meeting with the Welsh Government and Officers as this issue has assumed even greater importance. The WTA will seek to present your views and concerns on the impact of Covid-19.
General Economic Status - GDP growth for 2019 has been cut to 1.1%, down from 1.4% forecast in the 2019 Spring Statement, but forecasts for the next four years have been increased to 1.8% in 2021, before dropping again to 1.5% in 2022, 1.3% in 2023 and 1.4% in 2023. Debt is forecast to fall over the course of this parliament, going down from 79.5% of GDP this year to 75.2% in 2024-25. This is of course looking somewhat historic, at least in the short term, as it will not have taken into account the impact of the Coronavirus. The Chancellor also announced an additional £360mn for the Welsh Budget. Please note, some of the following will need to be further un-picked in the Wales context.
The Chancellor stated that he will do “whatever it takes” to protect the economy from the impacts of Coronavirus. A £30bn support package was announced which includes:
Environment and Climate Change