Tourism Sector: Reopening

Digital, Culture, Media and Sport – in the House of Commons on 9th July 2020.

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Photo of Neil Hudson Neil Hudson Conservative, Penrith and The Border

What steps his Department is taking to help the tourism sector reopen safely as covid-19 lockdown restrictions are eased.

Photo of Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Conservative, The Cotswolds

What steps his Department is taking to help the tourism sector reopen safely as covid-19 lockdown restrictions are eased.

Photo of Nigel Huddleston Nigel Huddleston Assistant Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

The tourism sector has been severely impacted by this crisis, and we are working closely with the sector to get it back on its feet, including developing covid-secure reopening guidance for tourism businesses. VisitBritain has introduced an industry-standard quality mark called “We’re Good to Go”, which businesses can use if they meet covid-secure guidelines, and it has had over 20,000 applications already. The new £10 million kick-start tourism package gives small businesses in tourist destinations grants of up to £5,000 to help them adapt their businesses.

Photo of Neil Hudson Neil Hudson Conservative, Penrith and The Border

Last weekend I joined several businesses in my constituency as they reopened and saw the great work they had done to reopen safely. Will my hon. Friend join me in thanking the tourism and hospitality businesses in Penrith and The Border and across the country for their efforts in preparing to safely reopen? Further to the welcome announcements from the Chancellor yesterday, does he agree that these sectors, which may be slower to recover, should be kept under review, with additional Government support provided if necessary to help them through to the next full season?

Photo of Nigel Huddleston Nigel Huddleston Assistant Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

I fully agree with my hon. Friend. Tourism and hospitality businesses right across the country have invested an incredible amount of time and energy in getting ready to reopen. Tourism is vital to our economy. I, too, was delighted to see the sector take its first steps towards reopening last weekend and to hear the announcement yesterday of a cut in VAT. Earlier this week I participated in a roundtable organised by Cumbria Tourism, which I know he has been working closely with. I will continue to monitor the situation and engage closely with business.

Photo of Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Conservative, The Cotswolds

My hon. Friend will know from his visit to the Cotswolds last Saturday how important tourism is. In particular, the arts are very important. The Barn theatre in Cirencester is a relatively new and highly innovative theatre that has done an awful lot during the covid period to keep people informed through social media about the Government guidelines. Will he ensure that that theatre and other small theatres like it get their fair share of the £1.5 billion for theatres and the arts?

Photo of Nigel Huddleston Nigel Huddleston Assistant Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

I would like to thank the Barn theatre for all that it has done to help the local community during the coronavirus crisis. Indeed, I thank tourism, leisure and arts businesses across the country, and it was a pleasure to visit some of them in my hon. Friend’s constituency last weekend. I can confirm that the purpose of the £1.57 billion cultural support fund is to support organisations across the cultural sector right across the country, including those that do not have a history of receiving public funding. More information on the eligibility criteria and application process will come by the end of this month, and I encourage the Barn theatre to apply.

Photo of Alex Sobel Alex Sobel Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

After staffing, the largest cost that many tourism and hospitality businesses face is their rent. One of the sector’s main asks for yesterday’s statement was help with rent. There is a moratorium on evictions until September. However, many pubs, restaurants, amusement arcades, small museums and other tourist destinations face their quarterly rent bills when they have had no income. What additional steps are the Government taking to help them and ensure that we do not see mass closures?

Photo of Nigel Huddleston Nigel Huddleston Assistant Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

I thank the hon. Gentleman for those comments and know he shares my concerns about the sector, which is why we have taken so many measures. The issue with rent has been raised at the working group. He is right that there has been a moratorium. We continue to look at further measures. The range of measures already announced are being taken advantage of by the sector, whether it is loans, grants, business rates relief or furlough. The VAT reduction yesterday was welcomed across the sector, but we will continue to engage with it and see what further assistance may be required.