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Visit East of England letter to region’s MPs on devastating impact of Coronavirus

On March 20, Visit East of England chairman Dr Andy Wood OBE, chief executive of Adnams of Southwold, wrote to the region’s MPs on behalf of our £10bn tourism sector.

Dear East of England MPs

On behalf of the thousands of tourism businesses in the East, we are writing to you today to highlight the devastating impact Coronavirus is having on the region’s visitor economy and to ask you to pressure the Chancellor and Government to help alleviate what is quickly becoming an existential crisis for thousands of SMEs.

We welcome the steps set out so far, but we cannot stress enough how crucial Government support is to help businesses and communities:

1) Weather the storm, requiring immediate action.
2) Help rebuild the region’s largest industry and biggest employer with remedial action.

The sector is worth over £10bn a year to the local economy and more than 246,000 people in the region are currently dependent on a thriving travel and tourism sector for their livelihoods.  Around a third of travel and tourism jobs are held by young people (aged 16-24), compared to just 12% of all jobs in the wider economy, and the pandemic will have a disproportionate effect on them.

We join our colleagues in the Tourism Industry Council, including UK Hospitality, ABTA and the Association of Large Visitor Attractions, the British Beer and Pub Association, and those on the Tourism Industry Emergency Response Group, in calling for urgent action for:

• Long-term relief on business rates, PAYE, VAT
• Salary and redundancy support
• Measures from banks, including extending overdraft facilities and covenant waivers
• Urgent access to funds
• Budget measures for SMEs to be extended to medium and large businesses
• Support for landlords to look at sensibly phased payment schedules
• Underwrite insurance costs for business interruption for a period of at least three months. This money must be given to insurers now or to businesses direct

The Chancellor’s announcements of this week will go some way to helping companies survive but, crucially, those initiatives will only help if they are enacted immediately. There is no time to lose.

As a matter of urgency our sector needs a clear plan to ensure that employees and their families can survive this challenging time – the best way of achieving that is to keep them employed even if their business closes its doors and to guarantee income through payroll.

This way they will also be ready and available when this crisis passes and the sector can help deliver the Prime Minister’s forecasted ‘bounce back’. Undoubtedly at that time people will want to enjoy themselves again and that will be a welcome opportunity for the tourism industry to mend a little of the catastrophic damage Coronoavirus has wrought.

To that end, we ask you to lobby the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to change their rules on not allowing domestic marketing of the sector by VisitEngland and regional Destination Marketing Organisations such as ourselves. There is a strong case that the public will not quickly return to outbound holidaying and the UK tourism sector should be helped to capitalise on that.

This is also an opportunity to reset the button on tourism: to promote the economic, environmental and wellbeing benefits of domestic travel and to rejuvenate and renew our own sense of community.

As our local MPs, we strongly urge you to make any and all possible representations, without delay, to help make these things happen.

Yours sincerely

Dr Andy Wood OBE
Chairman, Visit East of England