May 26, 2020 @ 9:55 by Richard Dawson
The North East tourism industry is calling for support at the start of English Tourism Week (May 25 to 31).
As we move into the British summer, tourism bosses are urging the Government to continue to support the industry until businesses can trade profitably.
They are calling for more flexibility in the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), with many unlikely to be able to operate at full capacity for many months to come.
More guidance is also being called for in advance of any reopening that might happen on July 4.
Hospitality businesses need at least two weeks’ notice to be able to make the required amendments to services or premises.
The tourism industry is worth £5 billion to the North East economy and supports the employment of 66,000 jobs across the region.
The Government recently announced that the very earliest most tourism businesses will re-open is the beginning of July.
By then, the industry will have already seen direct losses of more than £1.4 billion, with a further £448 million lost to the regional economy from the supply chain and spending from those employed in the sector.
A number of events due to take place have been cancelled, including the This Is Tomorrow festival, which brought 35,000 people to the region this time last year.
Sarah Green, chief executive of NewcastleGateshead Initiative, said: “In normal circumstances, we would have been celebrating a busy bank holiday weekend with visitors flocking from far and wide.
“Instead we are in a position where many of our tourism businesses have now been shut for two months and the earliest hope of reopening is the beginning of July.
“Over the coming days and weeks, we will begin to see how the Government will ease the restrictions placed on the tourism industry and how support measures change.
“We await confirmation of these measures, but it is clear that the industry needs continued support and greater flexibility in regulations to allow for businesses to operate in the new world that we will find ourselves in.
“Crucially we need clear and consistent messaging from the Government around the visitor economy and what the public can and can’t do.
“The impact of tourism is far greater than just economic – the sector also plays an important role in changing perceptions of the region. In turn, this supports the Government’s levelling up agenda by driving inward investment and capital development to the North East.
“Our cultural attractions are key motivators for the region as a place to live and underpin what is special about the North East.”