Plaid Cymru have warned that the coronavirus crisis could “ruin” the Welsh tourism industry if a commitment to longer term financial support from both Welsh and Westminster governments isn’t made soon.
Plaid Cymru Shadow Minister for the Economy Helen Mary Jones MS said the financial impacts of lockdown on rural communities was clear following a "huge spike" in universal credit applications.
The Shadow Economy Minister said these communities should be further protected by the UK Westminster and Welsh Governments as the crisis continues.
Thomas Scarrott from one the largest caravan operators in Wales, Vale Holiday Parks, says that extra support is necessary for his business to survive. Although some of his smaller parks with a rateable value under £51,000 were eligible for financial support, others (some of which were £300 over the threshold) didn’t receive any support at all. Mr Scarrot said that “to guarantee the long-term future of our business and to see us through the 'triple winter' scenario that we find ourselves in, more support is required.”
Mr Scarrott added that staff needed more support, noting that “in peak season approximately 200 people are employed by my parks, but the inflexibility of the furlough scheme means we have been unable to furlough all employees - including those with specialists skills required for the ongoing maintenance of areas such as gas, electricity, waste and water supplies.”
Another tourism business owner, Charles Dark, who owns the only hotel in Machynlleth, the Wynnstay, says that he too will need additional support if his hotel is to survive this crisis. Although he has received some support, he notes that “it simply doesn’t cover the loss of earnings”, and that it isn’t viable to reopen with social distancing in place without the funds to do so. Mr Dark highlights the cascading effects of the loss of activity in businesses like his, noting that his hotel is a significant employer in the local area, and he “keep(s) on staff all year round without letting them go in quieter seasons. I also buy in mostly local produce, so if the hotel isn’t operational the local economy loses the approximately £1.5m we contribute to it each year.”
Ms Jones called on the Westminster Government to extend its furlough scheme beyond October for tourism businesses, and on the Welsh Government's Economic Resilience Fund to provide support for businesses overlooked initially, such as B&Bs who pay council tax rather than business rates.
The MS for Mid and West said long term support for the tourism sector from the two governments was an "absolute must" if the industry was to survive.
Plaid Cymru Shadow Minister for the Economy Helen Mary Jones MS said,
“We’ve already seen the financial impacts of lockdown on rural communities where there is a high percentage of seasonal workers; in Dwyfor Meirionydd there has been a huge spike in universal credit applications, illustrating the prevalence and importance of seasonal work in the area.
"These communities must be further protected by the Westminster and Welsh Governments as the coronavirus crisis continues. Whilst other sectors are beginning to reopen, the tourism industry will continue to face difficulties. Operational social distancing measures are not realistic for many tourism settings, which means that longer term support is a necessity for them.
“The Westminster Government must consider extending their furlough scheme beyond October for these businesses, as well as altering the business contribution element for them after August. We also need flexibility in the furlough scheme so that some workers can work part time on things like essential maintenance and adaptations for socially distanced operation. Further stages of the Welsh Economic Resilience Fund must also provide support for businesses overlooked initially, such as B&Bs who pay council tax rather than business rates.
“Long term support for the tourism sector from the UK and Welsh Government is an absolute must if the industry is to survive, and these announcements need to be made soon to give businesses enough time to prepare. We cannot let this crisis ruin an industry which is so crucial to the Welsh economy.”