A Wales wide survey of WTA Organisation’s members ran for two weeks, opening on 27th July and closing on the 10th August 2020. It is not possible to ascertain the total number of Micro businesses or SMEs the link was circulated to, however with a response of 113, taking a conservative 2-5% response rate to the call to action, we can anticipate that a minimum circa of 2260 businesses across Wales were contacted. The Survey was introduced with the following explanatory text:
‘As Wales emerges from lock-down and we start to welcome back visitors under various restrictions, this is not an easy time for us, individually, our livelihoods, our staff and of course our visitors. We want to know where you stand’.
Summary of findings
Of the 113 businesses that responded 90% had re-opened. A slight majority of the respondents felt that the Welsh Government had got it right with the timing of the re-opening (53%). Only 8% stating they were too quick. A majority of businesses 62% stated they were happy with the available protocols for re-opening, but there were those who had not found them easy to use or relevant.
Whilst 77% had engaged with the UK Government’s ‘Good to Go’ scheme, only 40% said they thought it helpful to guests.
58% (63 respondents) said their main form of communication was prior to arrival electronically, less than 4% via the telephone and only 12% on arrival or via printed material placed in the property. Although a further 25 respondents said they used all three to cover all basis.
Of most concern to 49% of respondents was staying in business - Viability alongside increasing overheads was the main concern and related to that was concern for the UK economy and rising levels of debt a further 21% of respondents. Only one respondent was concerned about indirect taxes, such as VAT!
With regard to Community Support, somewhat surprisingly perhaps this has not returned quite such a negative response as might have been anticipated. Only 8 respondents said that the local community had not been supportive.
And finally how is everyone feeling, well not too bad…although, not be ignored, 25% stated they were either pessimistic or very pessimistic, meaning the majority were optimistic, very optimistic or neutral.
The Results in Full
For the full set of graphic results please follow the URL: https://www.surveymonkey.com/stories/SM-YBS7HZPD/
Have you opened or do you intend to open your business this year?
96 of business (90%) who responded to the survey stated that they had opened. Although some had only opened partially. Example responses ‘Opened 2 rooms, room only out of 5 B&B’; ‘intend to open 50% from 1st September 2020’ and one light railways ‘Part open. X miles out of Y mile rail system’.
The remaining 10% were asked why they had not opened, the first reason given was that the cost of re-opening makes it uneconomic. Two businesses were concerned about the danger posed to themselves, staff and customers, with only one concerned about the possible loss of goodwill in the local community. There were also five additional ‘other’ responses, which in short stated they had simply not opened as there was currently no demand – for example one business relied on overseas visitors, another was an events operator.
Whether you have opened or not, have you been happy with the Welsh Government's approach and timing?
53% thought the Welsh Government had got the timing about right. ‘Somewhere in the middle, Wales approach has generally been sensible, but don't agree with the order of some of the decisions’
8% saying that the Welsh Government had been too quick to reopen. ‘I wish I could say yes, I want to say yes, but where I live there are far too many people out there not adhering to the guidelines, not just for their safety, but also for mine and I think we will definitely have a second wave of the virus’.
A further 25% thought the Welsh Government had been too slow, other responses seemed to concur more or less with those who thought the Government had been too slow, stating responses such as ‘too slow at beginning in whole UK so that we could re-open earlier-only 2 months of the season left now’ or ‘the lockdown was too slow - It should be locked down early March (or even Feb as it was out of visitors season) so that we could have opened earlier’.
There was also a measure of dissatisfaction with devolved Government across the UK,’I understand the different opening phases in areas and countries, but it would have been easier if all phases were the same and Scotland England and Wales and NI were signing from the same sheet! This was a time when we should all be united’.
Have you been satisfied with the Guidance and protocols provided by UK & Welsh Government for re-opening your business?
A majority of 62% said they were happy with the response. That still leaves a sizeable number who were not.
The reasons stated as to why they were not happy with the protocols provided were mixed and varied…15 businesses stated ‘I have not been able to find guidance or protocols that cover my business’. 5 stated it was too complex or too expensive to implement. ‘The advice is contradictory and constantly asks us to ensure we do what we need to do’. Several businesses felt the instruction was too vague, ‘The information is quite vague at times, and can be quite late being published’. Others suggested it was good for some sectors and not others ‘Yes for the self-catering cottages, but no for the B&B’. One suggested there should be funding to support the purchase of the extra equipment required. In a later question it was also stated ‘We need more guidance on how to open inside safely’.
Have you engaged in the Visit Britain 'We're Good to Go' scheme?
77% (86 responses) said yes they had. A further 13% were not aware, but stated they would now use it. Just under 10% said they were aware, but would not use it. However the results ‘If you answered yes to Q3, has it been helpful to guests’? were not so positive, with 40% (33 respondents) of those who have used it, stating that ‘no’ it was not helpful to guests.
How have you communicated any new arrangements with your customers?
58% (63 respondents) said their main form of communication was prior electronically, less than 4% via the telephone and only 12% on arrival via printed material placed in the property. This suggests that businesses are indeed keeping socially distanced. However, 25 respondents also stated that they use all of three mediums ‘All of the first 3 above - don't rely on one method’.
What are you most concerned about in the medium to long term?
Staying in business - Viability alongside increasing overheads was the concern of 49% and related to that was concern for the UK economy and rising levels of debt with a further 21% of respondents stating that was their main concern. Only one respondent was concerned about indirect taxes, such as VAT. Perhaps a nod to the profile of most members of the Tourism industry in Wales of many in business below the VAT threshold. Three respondents were concerned about Non-Domestic Business Rates and four respondents were concerned about regulation. No one mentioned loss of staff as a concern, again suggesting the profile of tourism micro businesses in Wales that are small, flexible and although a concern to some, not so for most of the majority of micro businesses that make up the sector. Pointing perhaps to more of a need for the training for Owner/Managers?
18% (20 respondents) stated other issues, ranging from calls for more support ‘Lack of support, funding and borrowing capacity to remain successful going forward amongst economic downturn’; lack of overseas visitors; ‘Brexit on top of the pandemic’; personal and public health; laments about Government focus on big business (when the industry is mainly made up of small businesses in Wales) and the possible impact of a second wave of Covid and further down. Also of note were several angry unpublishable comments.
Community Support: Has your local community been supportive of tourism businesses re-opening?
Somewhat surprisingly perhaps this has not returned quite such a negative response as might have been anticipated. Only 8 respondents said that the local community had not been supportive, although there were 21 respondents whose response fell under three key themes:
Majority seemed welcoming, but a hard line minority e.g. ‘Mixed - some welcome opening as a ‘local destination for local people’ but less welcoming of tourists. Inconsistency of approach between for nations and Wales’ careful approach are at odds, creating hostility and ‘them v us’ attitude’.
That there is still a great deal of nervousness amongst locals, ‘I think there is a big worry and shock at sudden influx. However there is also an understanding of the need’.
There is concern about the influx of visitors to specific honey-pot areas, with a high volume (and low value) level of visitors, ‘not when they see litter and parking issues in Snowdonia. But other than that ok’ or ‘There has been a mixed reception in and around Llanberis area’.
And finally perhaps the most important question of all, how do you feel? I am...
Well in short not too bad… 25% stated they were either pessimistic or very pessimistic, meaning the majority were optimistic, very optimistic or neutral.
Questionnaire Survey Methodology
Survey vehicle - The survey ran for two weeks, opening on 27th July 2020 and closing on the 10th August 2020. The licensed software package - Survey Monkey - was chosen due to its functionality and survey test ability for online primary research. Survey Monkey is a widely recognised business tool. Businesses have a familiarity with the simple Survey Monkey format which helps in encouraging businesses to respond and answer openly.
The 11-question survey needed to be completed in under five minutes to ensure 90-100% question completion. The final aggregated result showed that the completion rate was between 95-100%, with all respondents completing the survey in well under five minutes. Average completion time was 2-3mins.
Distribution: The survey rationale and URL were distributed via WTA Member organisations across Wales. A broad definition of tourism business is used across the WTA Membership Organisations, which included accommodation and transportation providers, food-and-beverage providers, retail outlets, attractions and events. Indeed, any business that receives visitors is eligible to respond.
Total circulation: It is not possible to ascertain the total number of Micro businesses or SMEs the link was circulated to, however with a response of 113, taking a conservative 2-5% response rate to the call to action, we can anticipate that a minimum circa of 2260 businesses across Wales were contacted.
Agreed tourism business sample size: The minimum sample size required was set at a 100. This was exceeded at survey close with 113 responses received over the two-week period.
Survey questions: The Survey was introduced with the following explanatory text: ‘As Wales emerges from lock-down and we start to welcome back visitors under various restrictions, this is not an easy time for us, individually, our livelihoods, our staff and of course our visitors. We want to know where you stand?’
Survey structure: The survey questions were simple opinion tick box Q&As that deliver quantitative (number-based data) with some additional qualitative (dialogue-based data) Q&As.
Limitations to the questionnaire research: To ensure compliance with GDPR and in order to gain the most open answers the survey was conducted on an anonymous basis and only amalgamated results were used in this report. Being an anonymous survey could mean some businesses may have responded twice, however Survey Monkey was enabled to stop multiple responses from the same access point which can arrest multiple responses from the same business.