MPs in Warwickshire have detailed the work of the tourism task force which is attempting to save the sector from the impact of the pandemic.
Kenilworth and Southam MP Jeremy Wright, Stratford MP Nadhim Zahawi, and Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western gave the update as part Shakespeare’s England Open Tourism Forum held to mark English Tourism Week which aims to highlight the industry.
Shakespeare’s England – the Destination Management Organisation for South Warwickshire – aims to promote tourism in Warwickshire, and welcomed over 40 members to hear suggestions for saving the sector, and what changes they can expect when businesses reopen.
Stratford, one of the UK’s tourist hotspots, is expected to be one of the worst impacted in England as a result of coronavirus.
Mr Zahawi, minister at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, outlined the work the department had undertaken through the tourism task force.
He said: “When we went into this crisis, the interventions were around supporting jobs and the economy through the furlough scheme and bounce-back loans and as we enter the reopening stage, we need to review all these interventions for all sectors.
“In terms of the tourism industry, on top of the safer working guidelines, we have stood up taskforces around pubs and restaurants, non-essential retail, culture, heritage and tourism, lead by my department to deep-dive and engage with these sectors to get it right in terms of how we open up these businesses.
“I have done some deep-dives with the RSC and Stratford District Council to understand the impact overall and what they have done to mitigate that so that we can help the industry to safely reopen.
“Shakespeare and Stratford is one of the most globally-recognised brands as a destination, which will be impacted very heavily, but much of the recovery will be around consumer confidence and business confidence, acting quickly at local level.”
Mr Western added the flexible furloughing scheme has been crucial in supporting industries, while Mr Wright praised the government’s current support mechanisms but added VisitBritain’s suggestions on how to save the tourism industry should be considered.
Mr Wright added: “The longer-term planning to get things back up and running needs to be a combination of practical measures and psychology. We are going to need to give businesses in the sector as much notice as possible on when restrictions can be lifted.
“Customers will need reassurance that it is safe to go out and travel so we need to think about this psychology as much as the practical changes.”
Helen Peters, Chief Executive for Shakespeare’s England, thanked the MPs for their input.
She added: “There is no doubt that the industry will be hit hard by the impact of the pandemic, but with additional measures and innovative thinking, we can help to minimise the damage and get the industry back on track.”