A new report from the Hospitality and Tourism APPG has highlighted the acute impact of the COVID-19 crisis on businesses in the UK’s coastal and lakeside communities.
The Coasts and Waters report shows that the impact of the crisis has been more pronounced on coastal and lakeside regions due to their reliance on tourism, which generates 50% of local employment in some areas.
These regions are likely to bounce back from the current crisis more slowly than other parts of the country, with one-third of coastal communities yet to recover from the financial crash of 2008.
The APPG report stated that Government support for tourism and hospitality businesses, in particular the VAT cut and business rates holiday, has been critical in keeping businesses alive. Members called for an extension of the current VAT cut as well as a business rates holiday for the whole of 2021 to enable businesses to rebound next year.
Following an extensive consultation period and a series of oral evidence sessions, the group heard about the difficult road to recovery that coastal and lakeside areas will face after COVID-19, with many of the socio-economic issues that are frequently present in these areas being exacerbated by the pandemic.
In order to address the challenges post-pandemic, the APPG has called on the Government to take a number of specific steps, including revitalising the Tourism Sector Deal to create an effective plan to boost coastal and lakeside communities; commit to a Coasts and Waters strategy as part of its levelling up strategy; and examine innovative ways to increase demand for off peak tourism to these areas, including the introduction of social tourism vouchers for lower income families.
Beyond the COVID crisis, the report also outlines deficiencies in infrastructure, particularly the lack of transport links and poor digital connectivity, and a risk of climate change as major concerns. There is also an urgent need to tackle seasonality which limits productivity, employment, investment and skills in coastal and lakeside communities. Representation of these areas in Government was also an important area of focus for the inquiry, with the group recommending that there should be a new cabinet position created for a Coastal Communities Minister.
Chair of the APPG, Steve Double MP commented: “This has been a comprehensive investigation into the challenges and opportunities being faced by tourism and hospitality businesses in coastal and lakeside communities. The work this year has also thrown into sharp relief the devastating effect the ongoing COVID19 crisis has had on these fantastic, yet precariously balanced regions.
Without the further assistance that we have called for, many businesses and jobs in the hospitality and tourism sectors will not exist by Spring 2021. Without these vital industries, coastal and lakeside areas across the UK will be thrown into penury. The report gives us the best chance of understanding how these communities can be supported and encouraged to grow.”
Kate Nicholls, Chief Executive of UKHospitality, which acts as secretariat to the APPG, added: “Seaside and lakeside hospitality is some of the best the UK has to offer. Importantly, these businesses tend to account for a significant proportion of the revenue raised in their areas. They are vital attractions for visitors, important hubs for communities and crucial drivers of inward investment.
“They have not always had the support they need and deserve, though. They have had to battle through against lack of investment, fluctuating demand and changing tastes. If the COVID crisis has made anything clear, it is that hospitality and tourism businesses are vital parts of communities and will be essential in rebuilding the economy next year and beyond. Coastal and lakeside communities need to be at the heart of plans to bounce back strongly.”