I thank my hon. Friend Selaine Saxby for securing this important debate. Hospitality is the cornerstone of the economy in my constituency. Before 2020, the island hosted over 1 million overnight visitors each year and tourism brought in over £300 million in revenue. Almost a fifth of the island’s population are directly employed in the tourist industry and 12% of our VAT-registered businesses are in the hospitality trade. Of course, this does not take account of smaller businesses, or of the local supply chain that is dependent on those businesses. So when I say that covid-19 is having a significant impact on the economy of Ynys Môn, it is no exaggeration.
The first national lockdown in March last year came just at the start of our tourist season. Suddenly plans were thrown in the air, with bookings cancelled and refunds demanded. My inbox exploded with messages from deeply troubled small business owners. Many people on the island had sunk everything they had into businesses that now seem about to crumble into nothing. When the Chancellor brought out his first phase of support, it was a welcome beacon of hope for many. Of course, it was not a cure-all for everyone. It did not answer all the problems, but it gave hope that someone had a grip on what was needed to help. Through initiatives such as furlough, 100% business rates relief, small business grants and the VAT cut for hospitality, businesses such as Coffee Cups and Catch 22 were given the support that they so desperately needed.
When the summer came and those businesses could reopen, the Chancellor stepped in again, with eat out to help out. Ynys Môn saw 104 restaurants take part, with 74,000 meals claimed for, totalling nearly half a million pounds. Our hospitality businesses did us proud over the summer. Despite early concerns that tourism might lead to increased covid rates, our food and accommodation businesses complied with social distancing, personal protective equipment and sanitising measures, and our island’s figures stayed low.
We have been through a long winter, locked down by the Welsh Government’s firebreak over the half-term break in October, and again over the Christmas break. Many restaurants developed a new sideline in takeaway meals. I was delighted to run a competition last month to find our island’s favourite takeaway. I received hundreds of entries, with many people applauding the contribution that our restaurants and takeaways have made to our emotional wellbeing, if not always to our waistlines. The winner, the Pilot House Cafe in Penmon, is a great example of a business that has adapted to its circumstances over the past few months and made the most of what opportunity it could.
As vaccinations roll out, those businesses that have weathered the storm across the island, such as the Valley Hotel, the White Eagle, the Oyster Catcher and Dylan’s, are earnestly hoping that we can reopen soon, not only for our tourists but for our locals, who, like everyone else across the UK, are just desperate to enjoy a meal out and a drink with their friends.