Covid-19: Hospitality Industry

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:37 pm on 24th March 2021.

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Photo of Giles Watling Giles Watling Conservative, Clacton 5:37 pm, 24th March 2021

I send my thanks to my hon. Friend Selaine Saxby and Ruth Cadbury for securing this important debate.

My constituency of Clacton is all about tourism. Much of it was created for tourism. Hospitality is the cornerstone of our tourism offer, employing thousands of people and delivering hundreds of millions of pounds to the economy. Hospitality businesses—be they bed and breakfasts, hotels, cafés, bars, or pubs—can be found up and down our sunshine coast. In fact, according to the results of my recent covid recovery survey, for which I had a very good response and I thank everyone for responding to it, some 20% of our local businesses are in hospitality. Those businesses are full of hard-working staff who always offer fantastic service and a very warm welcome. They help to make Clacton the wonderful place that it is and I thank them for that.

Throughout the pandemic, it has been incredibly important to me to ensure that those businesses had all the support that we could get for them. The Government have stepped up to the plate over the past 12 months and Tendring District Council has been brilliant at delivering the new funding, alongside its own discretionary schemes. I know that the business rates holiday, the VAT cut extension and the new business loans have particularly benefited, and will continue to benefit, our hospitality businesses. The furlough and the self-employment income support schemes have also helped many individuals. These have been positive interventions and I have no doubt that they will continue until some form of normality is resumed.

Thankfully, with the success of the vaccine roll-out, it looks like we might be back to normality at the end of lockdown. Now we need to ensure that our hospitality businesses are ready to take advantage of the new opportunities that I am sure will come. I think that we will have a massive influx of domestic visitors to the Clacton constituency this year. Our local destinations are already reporting a surge in demand for this summer as staycations are, unsurprisingly, proving popular again. Clacton’s beaches are, I think, the closest to London and the best. No hospitality business can afford to miss out on the opportunities that this influx will present, which is why the new restart grants will be so crucial. They will help our hospitality businesses to open safely—and safety is a key word. Although I welcome this potential influx, I ask that people act responsibly. If tourism businesses spend the money and open safely, people must respect that and act accordingly.

Speaking of support schemes, it is important that the Government’s work to help our arts, culture and sports institutions is recognised. We now have an additional £700 million to help these attractions as they reopen. One last word: please, please, we must get that beer differential to support on-sales, otherwise we might lose pubs again.