The government has thrown destination management organisations (DMOs) “at risk of closure” due to the coronavirus pandemic a potentially vital lifeline.
Tourism minister Nigel Huddleston on Tuesday (7 April) announced a £1.3 million scheme to support “at-risk” DMOs through the Covid-19 crisis and ensure they are ready for the rebound.
Funding is available through the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to any DMO in England which usually receives at least 50% of its income from commercial sources.
The money will be reserved to cover operating costs and protect the roles of those employees who cannot be furloughed because they provide "crucial business support services".
“We need to act now to help the tourism sector be as strong as possible when we get through this pandemic,” said Huddleston. “DMOs will play a vital role in this recovery and this fund will support their essential work.”
DMOs provide expert advice and guidance to local businesses and are, according to the DCMS, “a crucial part” of developing and promoting English tourism.
A number of DMOs though are facing cash flow issues and loss of commercial income due to coronavirus. The funding, said the DCMS, will ensure DMOs can continue operating while preparing for the recovery.
Under the scheme, DMOs will be able to receive up to £2,500 per month for two members of non-furloughed staff who provide crucial business support services, and up to £5,000 to cover operating costs.
VisitEngland acting chief executive Patricia Yates added: “Tourism has been one of the earliest and hardest hit of all economic sectors and this fund will help to ensure DMOs can continue to provide crucial support and expert guidance to the hundreds of thousands of small-to-medium sized businesses that make-up England’s tourism sector.
“Our intention is to get the funds out quickly to DMOs with a light touch application process as we work with them in recovery planning, to ensure that tourism rebounds and once again becomes one of the most successful and vibrant sectors of the economy.”
The funding will be available until 30 June and has been repurposed from the Discover England Fund.
According to the DCMS, there are around 150 DMOs operating in the UK, each running marketing campaigns, providing advice to local tourism businesses, and conducting research on behalf of their members.
Many also manage central government grant schemes like the Discover England Fund.