At a recent debate on Domestic tourism in Parliament led by the chair of the Hospitality and Tourism APPG, Steve Double MP and responded to by the Tourism Minister, Nigel Huddleston MP. The debate highlighted the impact of coronavirus on the domestic tourism industry and looked at the measures needed to support businesses, for example retaining the reduced VAT Rate and extending Business Rate Relief. The Minister also stated the case for more support to invest in destination marketing organisations and a call for local authorities to local authorities be very generous with grants for those sectors that have not been able to access support.
The debate on the creation of a Hospitality Minister position in BEIS was triggered by petition exceeding the 100,000 mark. The call for a Hospitality Minister was responded to by the Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Labour Markets, Paul Scully. He acknowledged the importance of hospitality to the UK economy and local communities. He also undertook to continue to work with the sector to get it through the immediate crisis, but stopped short of agreeing with the need for a Hospitality Minister. The debate ended with Catherine McKinnell MP, who introduced the petition, thanking the Minister for his response, but urged him to take the idea of creating the position of Hospitality Minister to the Prime Minister as something that it is in the Government’s interest to create. Link to the transcript of the debate:
The Welsh Government’s latest £180m Economic Resilience Fund package to support tourism, hospitality and leisure businesses affected by coronavirus restrictions from - 13th January 2021. The funding, announced in December, is part of a live £450m package of support that the, hospitality, leisure and tourism sectors as well as their supply chain can access and will provide vital support to thousands of firms impacted by alert level 3 and 4 restrictions. The £180m is in addition to a £270m support package for businesses that pay non domestic rates, which includes non-essential retail businesses, and is being delivered via Local Authorities.
The Welsh Government estimates that under the package of support a typical hospitality business in Wales with the equivalent of six full-time staff could be eligible to receive between £12,000 and £14,000 in total, making it the most generous offer in the UK. Economy Minister Ken Skates said: “Accelerating coronavirus rates meant we have had to make difficult but necessary decisions to protect people’s health and save lives. We know these decisions have a knock-on effect on our businesses and there is no doubt that latest restrictions mean very real challenges for firms who have already had to deal with so much.
“Many hospitality, tourism, leisure and non-essential retail businesses have already received payments of £3,000 or £5,000 in the last month and this additional funding will be absolutely crucial in supporting eligible businesses through the difficult weeks ahead.” The amount a company can claim from the £180m sector specific fund will be calculated based on staff count and turnover. The fund is expected to support up to 8,000 hospitality, tourism and leisure firms impacted by the restrictions and potentially a further 2,000 in related supply chains.
Welsh Government support has already protected more than 125,000 jobs that might otherwise have been lost. Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Lord Elis-Thomas, said: “We are fully aware, not least from our hospitality stakeholder group, of the impact of the restrictions that we have had to bring in. This was not the Christmas period that any of us had hoped for, but I would urge businesses to take advantage of the help available.
“We will continue to do everything we can to support our firms and our people through to the other side of this dreadful pandemic.”
Further information and details on how to make an application for the package of business support is available on the Business Wales website. The fund will remain open for 2 weeks or until funds are fully committed.
The ONS has published a survey on the public actions over the Christmas period and perceptions regarding the future beyond Covid-19. The survey was undertaken before the current lockdowns (Jan 2021) on the perceptions regarding how soon the UK will get back to normal which will have implications for holiday booking patterns this year.
The main findings were:
Concerning fort tourism terms in that only a quarter of people feel that life will return to normal before July and therefore considerable work will need to be undertaken to increase consumer confidence. Full survey results:
The chairman of an award-winning leisure company that has a sales centre in Mid Wales is predicting a fantastic year ahead for tourism in the UK after the extreme challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.
Tony Bywater, from Salop Leisure, which also has sales centres in Machynlleth, Shrewsbury and Stourport-on-Severn, believes the demand for ‘staycationing’ will be greater than ever in 2021, with British people reluctant to jet off to sunnier climes.
In addition to running one of the UK’s most successful caravan and motorhome dealerships, Salop Leisure also owns the Love2Stay resort and adventure centre and Love Plants specialist plants centre in Shrewsbury and caravan holiday home and touring parks across Mid Wales.
Outside the national Covid-19 lockdowns last year, caravan and motorhome sales boomed at Salop Leisure as more first-time buyers opted to invest in holidays in the UK for the foreseeable future instead of travelling abroad.
Many caravan holiday home parks across Mid Wales and the Heart of England reported a huge demand for available pitches.
Mr Bywater believes that this trend will continue in 2021 and the years to come as the Covid-19 vaccines are rolled out across the UK.
Having devoted more than 50 years of his life to the caravan and motorhome industry, he has experienced many economic highs and lows and is well placed to offer an opinion on future business prospects.
He says the UK will emerge from the pandemic as a much different place, as people re-evaluate what is and what is not important in their lives. Spending quality family time away from work will become a top priority.
“It has been an extremely difficult time for everybody, but I think 2021 is going to be very special for our industry and tourism in the UK,” he said. “People are going to want to stay in the UK, rather than travelling abroad, like they have done in the past. The pandemic will change people’s habits forever.
“Demand for caravan holiday homes, touring caravans and motorhomes is going to be massive, putting pressure on manufacturers and parks.
“We lost a lot of trade whilst our businesses were forced to close during the lockdowns, but, when we reopened in late summer, customer demand was huge.”
Mr Bywater says it’s imperative that all four home nations work together to agree a uniform policy on future lockdowns to make it easier for people to understand the restrictions. Having different rules in each country caused confusion.
Salop Leisure is a member of MWT Cymru, an independent organisation that represents more than 600 tourism and hospitality businesses across Mid Wales, which includes Powys, Ceredigion and the Meirionnydd region of Gwynedd.
The Government has published guidance for Employers and workers on rights and responsibilities related to employees who may not be able to go into work because:
The guidance consolidates and sets out the legal position in these circumstances and reminds employers that it is an offence for an employer to knowingly allow a person who is required to self-isolate to work anywhere other than where they are self-isolating. Similarly in is an offence for an employee not to inform their employer if they have:
The guidance also includes sections on:
Petition calling on the UK government to create a Minister for Hospitality reaches over 100,000 signatures
So the year draws to an end and good news remains scarce. The situation facing many and an increasing number of businesses in tourism remains precarious. A petition calling on the UK government to create a Minister for Hospitality has reached over 100,000 signatures, meaning it will be debated in Parliament on 11 January 2021. Good news or not? Possibly.
In the meantime, you will have all heard the Prime Minister's and First Minister's announcements (18/12/20) or at least the results of the impact of them including the need to exercise caution over the festive period and what is effectively a new lockdown in Wales. The Chancellor has announced an extension of the furlough scheme (until end of April 2021) and confirmed that the Budget will take place on 3 March.
FAQs for alert level 4 are available: https://gov.wales/alert-level-4-frequently-asked-questions
The Prime Minister made a statement to parliament with a number of messages related to activity over the Christmas break.
The key points were:
'Alert Level 4 (Very High)' lockdown will come into force for the whole of Wales on the 28th December 2020.
Not really much of a surprise...the First Minister has announced (16/12/20) a Restrictions at this level would be equivalent to the firebreak regulations or lockdown.