Easter holidays decision to be announced ‘next week’ – economy minister

Easter holidays decision to be announced ‘next week’ – economy minister

A decision on whether tourism will open in Wales for Easter will be made “next week”, says economy minister Ken Skates.

North Wales Live reported that Mr Skates was questioned in the Senedd about a reopening roadmap for the sector by Aberconwy MS Janet Finch-Saunders – as calls are made for “indicative” dates for tourism and hospitality.

Mr Skates said a decision on tourism would be taken next week by the Welsh Government cabinet.

He said that at the 21 day review next Friday (March 12) “businesses within tourism, hospitality and leisure sectors will learn about whether they’ll be able to reopen in time for Easter”.

Zip World founder Sean Taylor said the sector wants provisional dates so operators can prepare sites and their staff to enable them to reopen safely.

Ms Finch-Saunders said she had been holding tourism forums in her constituency.

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She said: “There’s some confusion about the additional £150 million that’s going to be made available through non-domestic rates grants. You’ve confirmed to date that this will only be extended if restrictions are extended on 12 March, and that’s causing some great uncertainty with those businesses.

“They really do need to know now whether there’s any likelihood of them opening up over Easter, or is it going to be April or is it going to be May.

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“Because these businesses really need to plan. There’s been mention of us moving to alert level 3 after 12 March, and level 3, of course, is a confirmed case rate of more than 150 cases per 100,000 people.

“But the latest rolling seven-day average is 57 cases per 100,000.

“This is putting huge expectation on these business owners now. So, I’d be really grateful if you could make a clear statement on that.”

She also asked the minister about tackling anti-visitor rhetoric and an explanation why a recent £30m hospitality fund had excluded firms that employ under 10 staff. This will be followed by a £150m fund for firms of all sizes in hospitality, tourism, leisure and non-essential retail sectors that pay non-domestic rates if lockdown is extended on March 12.

Mr Skates said: “Obviously, the next 21-day review is taking place next week, so businesses within tourism, hospitality and leisure sectors will learn about whether they’ll be able to reopen in time for Easter.

“But, as I said on the previous question, what’s essential is that any business that’s reopening does so in a safe way.

“And should that £150 million need to be utilised to support businesses, then it will be beyond next week.

“It will give a guarantee to businesses of all sizes that they’ll have support from Welsh Government with grants of up to £5,000 available for them.

“And that gives me assurance that, regardless of the outcome of the review next week, there will be an income, either through the form of a grant from Welsh Government, or through generating custom over the following weeks.

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“I would also agree with Janet Finch-Saunders that there should be no anti-visitor rhetoric. The message from Visit Wales throughout this pandemic has been, ‘Visit Wales later’.

“We’re keen to ensure that when it’s safe for people to visit Wales again, then we will be throwing open our arms to maximise opportunities for businesses within Wales.

“But, of course, communities that rely on the visitor economy for employment have suffered incredibly badly during this pandemic, and that’s why we’ve been so keen—and Dafydd Elis-Thomas as the excellent tourism Minster has been so keen to ensure that we’ve given the most generous package of support to tourism and the hospitality and leisure businesses anywhere in the United Kingdom.”

Zip World founder Sean Taylor said: “What we want is an indicative date to work towards.

“This would give us the confidence to start to recruit and talk to staff about coming off furlough. We know our staff are desperate to return to work and our culture at work is so important to us all.

“We know that this could change if the situation changes with new variants, we are fully aware things could change but we need a ‘best case’ date to work towards. This gives us time to prepare.

“We are part of the community, our teams live in the community, our suppliers are in the community, we want to open in a way that does not alienate the community here.

“We have shown last year we can manage visitors safely and now just need a date to work towards to prepare our sites and teams, particularly as we have a new site in South Wales opening.

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“We have had massive support from Visit Wales and Welsh Government, and we appreciate that support. We are aware this is not just about the visitor economy and that Government has to consider the health situation and other sectors of the economy. “

Sian Pritchard, of tourism route group Snowdonia 360, added: “It is without doubt incredibly encouraging and reassuring to see plans moving forward that will take us away from lockdown and further towards the safe reopening of the tourism sector.

“Our industry has been hit exceptionally hard and 2020 has had a huge detrimental impact on us all. Pinpointing Easter as a time at which we can begin to make the early steps towards reopening gives us the hope and promise that we so desperately need at this point.

“Further clarity is needed for the rest of the tourism and hospitality sector notably restaurants, cafes and pubs which form a critical part of our sector and we await further directive form the First Minister.

“As a collective of tourism and hospitality businesses and organisations, we have remained cohesive and united in our approach and believe that we have weathered the storm together and are determined to come through this stronger.

“Moving forward, however, it is critical that we are now able to plan for the Spring break when we can once again welcome tourists keen to explore the region and who choose North Wales as their holiday destination, alongside local visitors.”

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