A top tourism leader is urging the government to “throw away the rule book” and introduce some innovative measures to help save the sector from long term decline.
Helen Peters, Chief Executive of Shakespeare’s England, the Destination Management Organisation for South Warwickshire, is calling on the government to introduce measures to prevent tourism businesses from being wiped out by the pandemic.
Following VisitBritain’s suggestions to government of an additional bank holiday in October to help boost the industry, Peters is calling for more action from leaders to support one of the most vulnerable sectors.
She represents one of the UK’s tourist hotspots which is expected to be one of the worst impacted as a result of the coronavirus with Stratford-on-Avon expected to experience the 4th largest GVA decline by Q2 2020.
She said: “I believe the government should really be using their imagination to support the industry – the suggestion of an extra Bank Holiday is welcomed but more needs to be done.
“While an extra Bank Holiday might be a viable option it might have very limited impact; it has been proposed to coincide with October half term but there are differing half term dates across the country and the potential for bad weather, while many attractions may already be closed for the winter season.
“Also, businesses not involved in the sector have already seen four bank holidays since lockdown and will be anxious not to lose more work time.
“The New Zealand Prime Minister has suggested the country looks at a four-day working week, but with the same number of working hours each week to protect productivity levels. Indicating that this could increase the days available for local people to visit local tourist spots by 50%.
“This would work well for most industries with obvious exceptions such as manufacturing, but would ultimately benefit the leisure, tourism and hospitality sectors substantially.
“This is the kind of initiative our government needs to be implementing – even if only on a short trial basis. They need to throw away the rule book and look for be innovative before it is too late.
“Adapting to working from home has radically changed how businesses function, and by reducing the working week to four days, the increased leisure time would be a very welcomed boost for tourism businesses, at the same time as addressing the country’s well-being and work-life balance.”
Shakespeare’s England works to promote tourism in the South Warwickshire region, and with hotspots like Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwick and Kenilworth, the industry is worth over £777 million, employing 13,000 people with nearly 11 million trips made on average each year.
She added: “Since lockdown was announced, Shakespeare’s England has regularly surveyed its Members and almost 90% of respondents said that the extended and more flexible furlough scheme is extremely beneficial. For 43% this means they can remain viable for three months, 36% for six months and 14% indicated this retained their commercial viability for more than six months.
“The other really important factor to note is that 70% of respondents confirmed this has made the difference between retaining staff, albeit on furlough and having to make redundancies.
“And while the furlough scheme has clearly helped, there now needs to be more government support and initiatives, to help bring back one of the hardest hit industries from the brink of collapse.
“There are still many unanswered questions regarding social distancing and how it will impact on the financial viability of businesses when they are able to reopen, and exactly what requirements these companies will need to put in place to operate and whether such measures make their business unviable.”