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Great South West group set to discuss reopening visitor economy

Restarting the visitor economy will be the key item on the agenda when the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Great South West meets this afternoon.

The group of eight MPs, which promotes a powerful coalition of Great South West businesses, Local Enterprise Partnerships and local authorities, including Cornwall Council, hasn’t met formally since January due to the Covid crisis.

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Today’s meeting will focus on how to restart the hospitality industry following its enforced closure during lockdown, especially following today’s announcement of relaxed rules from the Prime Minister.

It is calling on the government for immediate action, including extra funding, in order to prevent job losses and the collapse of many businesses.

The agenda for the meeting states:  “The SW visitor economy in Cornwall and IoS, Devon, Somerset and Dorset is the largest single visitor region outside of London in the UK, attracting 17 million staying visitors with an estimated economic impact of £11.3 billion with direct employment of 210,000 people. The threat to this sector is un-paralleled. Even without the measures below there will thousands of businesses failures and tens of thousands job losses.”

Two of the group’s key demands are:

  • The immediate publication of the UK Hospitality Guidelines. They have been published in Scotland. 
  • The immediate appointment of a lead SW MP to be SW visitor economy link to Westminster 

They are asking the Government for:

  • An early announcement that Business Rates for hospitality businesses will not be charged until at least September 2021 and phased until April 2022
  • An early announcement that the Furloughing Scheme needs to be extended for the Hospitality sector as a special case.
  • More money for the Discretionary Grant Fund, specifically aimed at hospitality businesses who have not yet had any support from any of the previous Government support Schemes Essentially a crack filler. 

Cornwall Council leader Julian German said:  “The Great South West group was founded to tackle the specific challenges our region faces including poor connectivity, an ageing population, poor productivity and climate change.

“Obviously, when it began no-one had foreseen the virus pandemic, or the extra pressure it would place upon our economy.

“It has highlighted how we need substantial devolution and funding to unlock the full potential of the Great South West, tackle climate change and support our tourism industry.”

Today’s meeting will also see the five key priorities of the group redefined in the light of the pandemic crisis.  They will now be:

  • RECOGNITION of Great South West as a Powerhouse Brand including our Investment and Trade Hub and GSW Investment Fund.
  • CLEAN ENERGY – to immediately progress a series of projects that will make the 2030 net zero targets of our various councils really achievable.
  • TOURISM – Delivery of the Great South West Tourism Zone as quickly as possible to assist the re-set of a sector decimated by the Covid-19 outbreak.
  • INFRASTRUCTURE – Commitment to get on with the key road, rail and digital projects that have been promised since in 2010.   
  • PRODUCTIVITY - A Great South West Productivity Deal to deliver the recommendations of the SW Rural Productivity Commission through EU Exit.

The meeting will take place via video conferencing this afternoon.