Tourism has always been key to Weston’s local economy. Thousands of local jobs and livelihoods depend on it so, for months, I’ve been speaking to firms that were worried our summer visitors might not come back once the lockdown is over. The spectre of ‘three winters in a row’, where the all-important summer season simply didn’t happen and hundreds of local employers would be pushed into bankruptcy, loomed large.
I and many other MPs representing seaside towns and other tourism spots began making the case to the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak. We needed something to get the industry going again, to jolt everyone back into action before it was too late. It didn’t have to be permanent, but it had to be big and decisive.
So you can imagine my relief and delight when Rishi stood up in Parliament a few days ago and announced a whopping 15% cut in VAT on tourism, from 20% to 5%, plus the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme too. It ought to be exactly the shot in the arm that we’d been asking for, and which the entire ‘staycation’ tourism industry needs, to give punters a shove to come back and visit our local restaurants, coffee shops, hotels and attractions. The sector will still have plenty of challenges of course; running any organisation that’s got to comply with steadily-relaxing social distancing rules isn’t easy. But the ‘three winters’ threat has gone at least. It’s early days, but feedback from businesses I’ve spoken to has been very positive. They feel their voices have been heard, and that there’s a glimmer of hope for the first time in months.
Roll on the summer holidays, and let’s hope the weather stays fine. Weston needs it more than ever this year!