More than 40 Welsh tourism leaders sign letter asking Mark Drakeford for reopening dates after lockdown

Publish Time:2020-06-05 09:56:55Source:Business Live

【Introduction】:The letter warns of 'writing off 2020' but Welsh Government says it has to balance community concerns over coronavirus spread.

Tourism leaders from some of the most popular visitor attractions in Wales have signed an open letter to First Minister Mark Drakeford - calling for urgent clarity around dates for reopening after lockdown.

The letter, signed by over 40 leisure industry bosses from a range of high profile tourist destinations including Snowdon Mountain Railway, Zip World and Welsh Mountain Zoo, warns of “writing off 2020 for Welsh tourism” without a clear roadmap to reopening as published in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

In response a Welsh Government spokesman said it was aware of the concerns of those in the sector but had to balance reopening with community fears about exacerbating the spread of coronavirus.

The letter from the Welsh Association of Visitor Attractions reads: “As a highly seasonal industry, the impact of coronavirus has hit the attraction sector (as part of the wider hospitality sector) exceptionally hard; the timing was after five months of closure and negative cash flow and the window of opportunity to salvage any net cash inflow is during the summer months.

“After this, the remaining trading months of September and October are borderline even in a normal year.

“There is now a clear roadmap with dates, although it is recognised and accepted as conditional, for England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

“This has allowed attraction operators in these parts of the UK, to pro-actively plan their business to take full advantage of re-opening. No such dates or opportunities are available for Welsh operators and this is severely limiting our business ability to plan for any form of re-opening.

“We need clear dates when the various sectors of the economy can open and under what terms, and also when Wales will open itself up to tourism and the leisure market. Without this imminently, then decisions will have to be made now to protect the business assets, even if this has a negative impact on staff numbers, local community/businesses and potential to open during 2020 or even 2021.”

It adds: “If Welsh tourist businesses including attractions open three weeks or more after their neighbours, when coming to the end of the season, not only are we three weeks behind in planning and marketing, but we also reduce the chances of those businesses generating enough funds to see them over the winter months.

“What needs to be made clear is that nearly 100% of Welsh tourism is fast approaching the half way point of its trading season and is in real danger of running out of time.

“The additional issue with Wales remaining firmly shut, with no road map or public targeted dates, is that the UK population are now choosing to plan or book England and Scotland destinations for their summer break, day trips or family holiday.

“We ask that the First Minister and the Welsh Government reconsider their position with ‘traffic light’ phasing and instead look to adopt a specific road map with set dates and targets for the recovery of our industry.”

Vince Hughes, commercial manager at Snowdon Mountain Railway, said: “The safety of people must always come first, but Wales is falling behind other parts of the UK and the damage for many could be terminal. We hope the Welsh Government reads our letter and urgently provides some clarity on the way towards reopening.”

A Welsh Government spokeswoman said: “The feedback we’ve had from the tourism industry has been invaluable in addressing its needs at these difficult times. We are very aware of its concerns and its desire to reopen as soon as it is safe to do so to protect jobs in communities across Wales. We are also very aware of the concerns of communities that nothing should be done which could exacerbate the spread of coronavirus.

“Our package of support for businesses is the most generous in the UK and is providing vital help to thousands of businesses across Wales. However the sector right across the UK is pressing the UK Government to provide long-term financial support to help steer it through this incredibly difficult period. We will continue to work with the industry as we gradually ease restrictions and plan for a post-pandemic recovery in line with the First Minister’s roadmap.”

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