I first declare an interest, in that my husband works for a logistics company and deals directly with the hospitality sector in his role.
Looking at hospitality as a whole, we must first recognise the level of support that has been received generally within the sector throughout the covid crisis. However, three main themes are of great concern. The first is that there are many supporting and spin-off businesses that co-exist within this sector, but that seem not to have been included in all aspects of the support offered. The second is that the prolonged period in which the sector and those spin-off businesses have had to endure no customer revenue is stretching the limits to which they can wait for the sector to reopen once more, and the third is the lack of customer confidence in when the sector will be able to trade again.
A great many businesses in Loughborough are either directly part of, or related to, the hospitality sector: pubs, restaurants, cafés, bingo halls, nightclubs, bed and breakfasts, and hotels are obvious examples, and we have 290 such businesses locally, employing 3,000 people. We also have conference organisers, wedding event organisers and venues, lighting and audio technicians, event carpet and equipment suppliers, hair and beauty technicians, florists and printers, food production plants, breweries and catering equipment suppliers. Everything from hiring a tablecloth to arranging a major corporate event in Kuala Lumpur can be obtained from businesses in Loughborough. We are a very hospitable place.
Before covid, all of these business were not only viable, but thriving. However, economic output in this sector was down 92% in April 2020 compared with February 2020. If we want a V-shaped recovery, we must plan for one and support the businesses that will deliver it. For example, I understand that 264,000 weddings were missed last year. There will be pent-up demand, but if there are no businesses to deliver the events and services when we open up once more, that demand will not be met, and tax revenues will not materialise. There are revenues to be had: 475,000 weddings are currently scheduled for 2021, getting on for double the usual amount, creating the potential for an additional £25 billion in the sector. However, a lack of confidence that events will be allowed to go ahead means that weddings for spring and summer are already starting to be postponed and cancelled. In the meantime, finances are stretched to the limit for the whole of the hospitality sector, while businesses wait for permission to operate again. My hon. Friend Kevin Hollinrake will present a 10-minute rule Bill tomorrow, advocating the abolition and reform of business rates. That would really help pubs and other hospitality outlets, both with immediate effect, and into the future, giving pubs the chance to remain the centre of our communities. In supporting my colleague’s aim I ask that business rate relief for the hospitality and leisure sector be extended for a further year to include related businesses during the pandemic.
The best way out of this crisis, for business, is to be able to trade. For businesses to be able to do that with confidence, we need the people we are most concerned about in our communities to be vaccinated, and we are well on the way to achieving that—