As the Prime Minister yesterday (22 February) revealed the roadmap to cautiously exiting lockdown over the coming months in a series of stages, the tourism and hospitality sector of NewcastleGateshead has reacted to the announcement.
Sarah Green, chief executive of NewcastleGateshead Initiative, the tourism and inward investment agency responsible for promoting NewcastleGateshead on a national and international stage, said:
“Tourism and hospitality businesses welcome the clarity provided by the government’s published roadmap. It is critical that we get this right. Another lockdown would be catastrophic for businesses and the local economy.
“Significant support is needed to ensure that our hospitality businesses can survive and reopen. The Chancellor’s 3rd March Budget statement must support the sector, including: the extension of furlough; an extension of business rates relief; the maintenance of a VAT reduction for tourism and hospitality until at least March 2022; extensions of loan repayment holidays; and extra funding to stimulate demand in the tourism and hospitality sector at appropriate times.
“With the potential for all social distancing measures to be lifted by the summer holidays, there is a real opportunity for a fantastic second half to the year which includes: the Great North Run, Magic Weekend and the Rugby League World Cup. NGI looks forward to working with its partners – regionally and nationally – to restart the city, give our residents confidence to return to our great attractions and when relevant, welcome visitors once again.
“NGI will continue to support our unique and world-renowned tourism and hospitality sector as we emerge from this global crisis.”
Iain Watson, director of Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums, said:
“We’re happy to have a date for reopening and to be able to start putting our plans for welcoming visitors back again into action. We have new exhibitions and displays at some of our venues, and we will of course be implementing all of the Covid-safety measures to ensure social distancing.
“Our visitors are incredibly loyal and have been very supportive during lockdown and we’re very grateful for that. It has been fantastic engaging with our audiences digitally and via targeted community programmes but we’re excited to be able to see them face-to-face again to enjoy the genuine museum and gallery experience.”
Andy Hook, managing director of Hooked-on Group, which operates Blackfriars, Dobson & Parnell and Hinnies restaurants, said:
“As much as we’re relieved to see clear roadmap out of lockdown, we’re disappointed we won’t be back to full unrestricted trading sooner. As always, we seem to be at the back of the queue. We don’t understand why shops are allowed to open from 12 April whilst restaurants can’t even though our Covid-safety is arguably better. Moreover, allowing beer gardens to open from 12 April, but not indoor dining, even for single households, will put us hospitality businesses here in the north at a disadvantage over our sun-blessed southern counterparts.
“There’s also a lot of detail we remain to see concerning weddings, organised tastings, wine dinners and cookery school activities. It’s imperative the government continues to support the industry and its furloughed workers into the summer to ensure the best chance of survival. We need a permanent reduction in VAT as well as an extension of the business rates holiday. The businesses that have survived this far don’t want to fall at the final hurdle. And finally, the government will need a clear plan to revive and rejuvenate the city centres whose high streets have been decimated in recent years by the collapse of both hospitality and retail chains.”
Local tour provider, Alex Iles of Iles Tours, said:
“I am glad at the prospect of the safe reduction of restrictions that will see a return of the tourism industry this year. Being able to provide tours again in the summer, to visitors and locals, will be incredibly satisfying and I look forward to it!”
The Covid-19 impact on the tourism sector in numbers
- By the potential reopening date of 17 May for hotels and hospitality, projected lost revenues from the sector will amount to more than £1.3bn revenue, more than 13,000 jobs and over 1.2 million lost bed nights in NewcastleGateshead.
- By remaining closed over Easter, tourism and hospitality businesses are missing out on an important period for revenue – it is typically a busy time with over 90% hotel occupancy in normal circumstances. The average hotel occupancy rate in 2020 was just 33%.
- The first three months of 2021 have seen us miss out on over 4 million visitors to Newcastle and Gateshead, with an economic impact loss of £402m.