Lancashire tourism businesses look to vaccines for relief as hopes rise for a road map out of lockdown
With the Prime Minister tipped to unveil his thoughts on easing the third coronaviris lockdown on Monday, Fylde coast tourism businesses are hoping the vaccination programme will allow for some sort of Easter break to ease their cashflow nightmare.
Marketing Lancashire’s six point plan for a co-ordinated drive to help the county’s tourism and hospitality businesses bounce back after the pandemic has been welcomed but many businesses say the government has to offer fresh support to help them survive.
Reports suggest that some self catering staycations may be allowed in the coming Spring months, with perhaps non-essential shops and bars with outdoor areas also allowed to reopen.
A spokesman for Blackpool Business Improvement District said: “While it is still speculation what will actually be allowed to re open over the coming weeks, we would welcome some positive news from the Prime Minister in his announcement of the Governments road map of the lock down exit plan.
“All essential shops in the Town Centre remain open, and hopefully these will soon be joined by non essential retail, as well as hospitality venues and tourist attractions.”
Marketing Lancashire this week unveiled Redefining the Rule of Six - a recovery plan for Lancashire tourism and hospitality.
Developed with local authorities and the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership’s Tourism, Culture and Place group, as well as Marketing Lancashire and Visit Lancashire, it sets out six key priorities to help the sector through 2021 and beyond.
Michael Williams from Blackpool Winter Gardens welcomed the initiative but warned tough times were still ahead for tourism businesses.
He said: “It is encouraging that Marketing Lancashire have developed their recovery plan but it is essential that they continue to do all they can to aid the recovery of all Lancashire tourism and hospitality businesses once the current lock down is lifted.
“In particular, they must highlight the specific needs of the coastal visitor economy to ensure that seaside resorts such as Blackpool are given as much Government support as possible given that the past 11 months have been so challenging.
“The impact of the Covid Pandemic at venues such as the Winter Gardens has been significant with all the major events cancelled in 2020 and it is looking very unlikely that we will be able to host events for the foreseeable future.
“This has a knock on effect to many other businesses across the resort who all benefit from the guests attending shows and events that we host and promote at the Winter Gardens.”
Claire Smith, President of hoteliers group Stay Blackpool said that a co-ordinated effort was the best way forward in the recovery period.
She said: “It’s really encouraging to see a recovery plan put together by a collaboration of the whole county.
“It has been proven that more government help and support, be it financial or otherwise, is attained by a collective or one voice approach. The paper shows an organised and well thought through strategy and Stay Blackpool looks forward to supporting Marketing Lancashire in their follow through.”
Ian White from the ChorltonHotel and Stay Blackpool said everyone was hoping the vaccine programme would be a success and rolled out quickly.
He said: “It is extremely positive news to hear the 15 million vaccine numbers have been reached and delivery remains at a great pace, held back only by the limitation of supplies.
“Also that other indicators suggest things are heading in the right direction and pressure on the NHS is easing.
“Clearly the road map to reopening needs to be carefully considered, to eliminate the worst case of a future lockdown.
“StayBlackpool welcomes any easing provided the accommodation/venues/attraction/service providers and the public follow the rules.
“Most of our members have already upgraded their Visit England “We’re Good To Go” COVID compliant accreditation to the 2021 version, and trust non-members will follow the same journey.
“The attractions are taking the same responsible assessment of risk and putting appropriate plans into action.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said this week that there were “grounds for confidence” that vaccines are helping to curb the spread of coronavirus, not just in protecting those who received the jab.
He said he was “hopeful” that lockdown could be cautiously eased in the coming weeks, saying research on vaccines is providing “grounds for confidence”.
He told a Downing Street press conference: “We have some interesting straws in the wind, we have some grounds for confidence, but the vaccinations have only been running for a matter of weeks.”
He said that, in England, no decisions have been made on whether all pupils can return to school at the same time on March 8 after reports suggested a staggered approach may be taken, with secondary schools going back a week later than primaries.
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi has said preliminary evidence on the effect of vaccines on coronavirus transmission is “really encouraging” but warned the full data may not be available for weeks. Meanwhile the chairman of pub chain Wetherspoon, which has three pubs in Blackpool, called on the Government to open pubs at the same time as non-essential shops.
Tim Martin warned the pub industry was “on its knees” and that the three lockdowns had been a disaster for hospitality and tourism businesses.
He maintained that hospitality groups have provided the Government with information that “clearly demonstrates” that pubs and restaurants are Covid-secure environments.
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