Deputy Minister, Culture, Sport and Tourism
Stephen Jones - WLGA
Jason Thomas - Director Welsh Government
Paula Ellis- SW Forum Chair
Rob Holt - Welsh Government
Phillipa George - SE Forum Chair
Rhidian Morgan - Welsh Government
Sean Taylor - UK TIC Rep
Lucy von Weber - Welsh Government
Anthony Rosser - Uk Hospitality Cymru
Peter Francombe - Welsh Government
Dave Chapman - Uk Hospitality Cymru
Ian Edwards - VB Board rep
Michael Bewick - North Forum Chair
Andrew Campbell - WTA
Adrian Greason-Walker - WTA
Steve Hughson - Mid Wales Forum Chair
Mari Stevens - Welsh Government
Jo Corke- Welsh Government
Main points of meeting
Update – Jason Thomas
JT thanked all for joining the meeting and updated as follows:
- The meeting was aware of the issues around B+Bs who paid Council Tax not business rates missing out on support and noted the Scottish Executive had sought to address this and asked that this be explored in Wales, JT confirmed this would be fed back.
-Information on the end date for furlough desperately needed, especially in view of possible redundancies – what would be happening and how would it be handled? NB: decision to extend furlough to end June confirmed later in the day.
- the extension of the furlough arrangement to capture those in employment before 19 March was welcomed. But it was thought that this change did not capture many additional people and that had it been taken up to 31 March it would have helped more people. JT confirmed this point had been made at a UK level.
- There was concern around restrictions staying in place until end of September. It was felt that if the policies around social distancing (SD) remained in place for hospitality then the furloughing scheme should stay in place as, for example, restaurants could not operate at full capacity, with all staff, with SD rules in place .
-There was also a real concern about a second wave of the virus in October 2020 – we needed to prepare for this.
-there was a growing concern from hotels that Government still did not understand the hospitality sector and its importance to the foundation economy. Cash was required, not loans – there was a real fear that the foundations of the sector were crumbling, with iconic businesses folding. Social distancing post lockdown would causes real problems for the sector and “3 winters” were likely.
-JT acknowledged that tourism, hospitality and events were in the first wave of businesses hit, and that they would potentially emerge in a fallow period so the whole effect could last for about 18 month. From the outset VW/WG had understood the importance of cash flow to the sector and reiterated the importance of the sector applying for the ERF grant scheme. The DM reiterated his support for the sector and that he fed in the importance of, and concerns from, the sector to the First Minister and other Ministers on a daily basis.
-The importance of the sector and its concerns re the future, for the sector, the wider economy and local communities, were reiterated by the stakeholders. Despite the reassurances from the Minister and officials they felt compelled to write further to the Welsh Government and UK Government to emphasise the concerns of the group which represented interests across Wales.
-The ERF grant scheme was welcomed but concerns were raised it could end up supporting less-viable businesses. There was also concern that there had been confusion on the criteria e,g. around the need to have refusal from a bank before applying to the DBW, the application of rate relief grants and information about a sustainable business – how could this be predicted in this climate? There was a call for swift, and accurate, dissemination of information to the sector from WG/VW especially where things had changed.
- JT recognised the concerns but pointed out the priority, as identified by the Tourism sector and many other sectors, was getting cash out to business quickly, launching a £200m scheme and recruiting and inducting 140 staff in 10 days was unprecedented, however there would inevitably be glitches. MS said she would look at this more closely and perhaps include illustrative examples to help with understanding and perceptions going forward but noted the ownership of the scheme lay outside VW.
-A question was raised about whether there should have been a tourism-specific VW fund. JT pointed out VW was part of WG and like all parts of WG its non-contracted funding had been repurposed to the Covid efforts and that it was highly likely tourism had benefitted more as a consequence of being part of the wider fund.
-It was also noted that the Business Rate relief holiday only applied to the Retail, Leisure and Hospitality sector which reflected the scale of the impact on businesses in those sectors.
-attractions were concerned that loans did not offer security for them and some felt they might have to close. More positively some attractions had been doing some detailed business planning around reopening with social distancing and lower numbers of visitors. However guidance on hygiene planning and health and safety would be welcome.
-Another concern was that skilled workers might move into other sectors who might recover better/quicker and the sector would lose its workforce. RH confirmed that WG was feeding in at a Wales and UK level on this.
-B&Bs and glamping were being hit hard with many falling between the funding gaps. Loans and furlough arrangements helped but there was a real danger of insolvency in the future if borrowing. Instead of delaying VAT payments could a grant be considered instead?
-Insurance – there remained ongoing concerns re the behaviour of insurers and it was noted there was a clause in many insurance policies that if a property was unoccupied for 90 days and you did not request an extension then your insurance could be exempt. There was a need for this to be linked to legislation as people were not able to open. JT said he would like this, and other “top tips”, to feature in a future Industry newsletter.
-WLGA noted it was a matter for the Treasury to channel more money to Wales otherwise businesses would not survive- appeal to WG to keep up the pressure on UK Government. It was acknowledged that there were ongoing business rates issues which WLGA and LA’s were considering and it was also noted LAs have many roles including regulator post lockdown in relation to social distancing, hygiene etc. The sector asked for regulation to be “proportionate”.
-IE had just come out of a VB Board meet looking at recovery and reported that VB would be aiming its future marketing at a domestic audience taking account of when and how restrictions might be lifted e.g. considering deep cleaning, H&S, social distancing etc VB also considering campaign around NHS works “You pay they stay” – a reassurance campaign. MS would continue to link in with VB.
3.2 There was a suggestion that as matters progressed and we moved forward to discuss in more detail issues such as marketing, pricing, targeting etc then it might be useful to have sub-groups to look at some of the detail and there would be a need to draw in wider expertise and views. The TOR should make reference to potential subgroups. (AGW)
3.3 JT asked the group to consider the TOR and let AB have any further comments by 23 April.
5.2 JT proposed that the next meeting covers:
5.3 JT and the DM thanked all for the robust, but constructive discussions that had been held which had re-emphasised the very real concerns of the industry. JT and DM reassured those present that the WG did understand the huge challenges being endured by the sector and asked colleagues to urge businesses to apply for funding.
5.4 JT confirmed that minutes when circulated could be shared, noting that anything sensitive or commercially confidential should be declared during the meeting so as not repeated in minutes.
17 April 2020