At first glance, the chancellor’s Budget will come as a huge relief for many impacted by Covid-19.
Over the past couple of weeks, the global impact of the virus has really started to bite, with some countries enforcing international travel restrictions on their citizens.
My association has seen an exponential increase in calls and messages from our members, who are incredibly worried about how their businesses will survive financially during this current crisis.
Although loans are being offered by some banks, it is likely that for many tourism businesses, particularly SMEs, the only real option left on the table is financial support from the government, which the chancellor looks to have addressed in his Budget.
Our tour operator members rely wholly on international visitors coming to the UK, and so they are predominantly the ones who have been hit the hardest in recent weeks.
Although our other members such as attraction, restaurant and accommodation businesses are also being hit hard, and this can only get worse if the UK follows Italy’s example and restricts all but essential travel, they can still rely to a certain extent on business from domestic visitors which our tour operators cannot.
We have had initial feedback from some of our members about the budget, and it is clear many of the measures the government has announced to help businesses impacted by Covid-19 are to be cautiously welcomed. Speed is paramount as some businesses cannot wait many more weeks for financial help.
There is clearly a lot of support for smaller businesses in the Budget, but government needs to recognise that bigger businesses are suffering too.
The longer this crisis continues, other sectors of the tourism and hospitality industry, such as theatres and the organisers of large music and sporting events, could be impacted badly.
Aside from support to mitigate the impact of Covid-19, the Budget included a number of others measures that will aid the tourism and hospitality industry.
These include an increase in broadband investment into the hardest-to-reach places in the UK, which will be welcomed by our members in rural areas; the review of Air Passenger Duty; investment in our transport infrastructure; and the proposed tax on plastic packaging, all of which are long overdue.
We will continue to work on behalf of our members at this crucial time: lobbying to secure the government policies the industry needs; communicating official information to help companies manage their businesses; and working as a community so that we can support our businesses, ensuring they survive and thrive in this uncertain world.