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Some tourism businesses 'may not reopen this year'

Some tourism businesses 'may not reopen this year'

Published by Sarah Yeoman at 9:45am 24th April 2020. (Updated at 3:07pm 24th April 2020)

Written by Richard Whitehouse, Local Democracy Reporter

Tourism businesses in Cornwall may have to remain closed until next Easter even if the current coronavirus lockdown is ended this summer.

Malcolm Bell, chief executive of Visit Cornwall, said that if social distancing guidelines remain in place then some large attractions may not be able to operate due to the large numbers of visitors they receive.

Mr Bell has also criticised insurance companies which are preventing tourism businesses and customers from making claims for cancelled bookings during the current lockdown.

And he revealed that Visit Cornwall is lobbying to have the time needed to pay refunds to be extended to help businesses which are struggling.

Mr Bell said he hoped that some restrictions could soon be lifted to ensure that tourism businesses in Cornwall could reopen.

He said: “Cornwall is probably four or five times more dependent on tourism than other parts of the country – twice as dependent than Devon.

“To get the economy going is going to be a challenge – if we don’t get anything back this summer it would leave another 40,000 people unemployed. Closing for a year is not something that Cornwall could survive.

“If you take a holiday park that has a limited number of caravans and facilities, they could open on a restricted basis. There is no reason why you can’t open some businesses safely – not now, obviously, but when the restrictions start to be lifted.

“There will be some businesses which would be difficult to operate with the social distancing that would remain in place. Some will have to be mothballed until next year and there needs to be some thought as to how the Government will help those businesses.

“That would apply to those businesses that have a lot of volume, with a lot of people in close proximity. For example in London you would consider large tourist attractions like Madam Tussauds and London Dungeon.”

coronavirus

However he said that businesses should only reopen if it was safe to do so, adding: “Looking at recovery we have to make sure that the consumer is comfortable, that employees are comfortable and that the community is comfortable.”

Mr Bell stressed that the forced closure of tourism-related businesses not only has a direct impact on those firms but also to the various companies which supply them with goods and services.

“For every two jobs in tourism another job depends on it – the fact that people are not coming here is having an impact on all businesses. A third of all the money spent by tourists goes into other parts of the economy.”

The Visit Cornwall boss paid tribute to Cornwall Council for moving quickly and paying out grants to small businesses which are a “first aid package that was needed in terms of cash flow”.

But he said it was only one way to help and businesses were still encountering problems.

“We have got people in small B&Bs who have to pay council tax and have been excluded from support and have problems as they are self-employed. We are still lobbying to get help for them.

“People are also wanting refunds and even if they have got a grant that is not helping them to pay back fees immediately – customers are demanding their money back.

“We are asking the Government to look at giving 90 days to pay a refund and not the current 14 days.”

Hayle tourism beach

Mr Bell said there were also issues with insurance companies being unwilling to help businesses and their customers.

He said Visit Cornwall was working with a task force in London looking at trying to resolve those issues.

“Some of these businesses have paid thousands of pounds for insurance cover and would expect those companies to help them when something like this happens.”

Now Mr Bell said there was a need to start focusing on how the tourist industry will recover once the lockdown ends.

He said: “Cornwall Council have been great and giving that money out has stopped the panic but we need the Government to come up with ways forward as soon as possible.

“But we also need to be careful – we are not going to risk the people of Cornwall.”

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