That is one in four jobs in my constituency, and we are really worried about the impact that this virus has had on our local economy, for obvious reasons, and particularly in the small and independent sector.
Normally, we would see eight million visitors come to enjoy York and it is understandable why that is – whether it is indoors or out, visiting the Minster, the museums or visitor attractions, taking part in the small independent retail offer that we have, walking the walls of the city, enjoying the green spaces, or simply wandering through the medieval streets or around the snickets.
But with Covid-19, our streets became silent and doors shut, and many have yet to open. Of course, this was just at a time when our city was picking up from the floods.
Our city describes this as entering into our third winter in a row and we desperately need help now.
I have three requests for the Minister (Nigel Huddleston).
First, the reputation of our city will be built on our city being safe, and that is why we need an excellent test and trace system in York.
I ask him to make representations to the Department of Health and Social Care for our city to have a walk-in centre for testing.
It would be a game-changer for tourism, because we cannot expect visitors who come in by train to then go out to a drive-in centre for testing.
We also know that many people in our city will want to get out again quickly, so I ask not only for a walk-in centre, but that we become a pilot for the rapid tests that are to be introduced.
Secondly, I want to come on to the issue of furlough. It seems that a bit more persuasion is needed. We absolutely need furlough to be extended.
Currently, in my constituency alone, I have 17,700 people who are furloughed. They are facing a cliff edge unless there is further support.
When Government Members say, “How long?”, I would say to the Minister: let us extend and then review.
Let us extend it beyond Christmas and review it in the New Year, and then take it forward from there.
We do not know what is going to happen over the next few months. There could be a national lockdown or local lockdowns. Perhaps the virus will die out.
Perhaps the vaccine will arrive. Therefore, let us take this step by step as we go.
Thirdly, I ask that the Minister meets tourism leaders in my city to understand the rescue package we need, because this recovery is going to take time.
So much money has been lost from the sector to date and we really want to make sure that we are a success going forward.
If he would be so kind to do that, I am sure our sector leaders would really engage with him and help him to put the right package together for the future.
Rachael Makell is Labour MP for York Central. She spoke in a House of Commons debate on tourism.
IN response, Tourism Minister Nigel Huddleston told MPs: “We have seen some positive signs in the past few months.
“The hotel and accommodation occupancy rates in coastal and rural areas have been relatively high—in some cases, back to 2019 levels by the end of August.
“Self-catering cottages, camp sites, caravan and holiday parks have generally reported a strong summer and many outdoor attractions have also seen high levels of footfall, but many outdoor and especially indoor attractions remain subject to capacity constraints.
“Many city areas continue to struggle, in part because they are especially reliant on and exposed to inbound tourism and business travel and, of course, we still have quarantine measures in place.
“We will continue to monitor all this closely and take further action where necessary, but it is not true to say that the measures already in place will not help over the next few months.
“Businesses will continue to benefit from the VAT cut until January 12; the furlough scheme continues until the end of October; Visit England and Visit Britain will soon launch a new domestic campaign; and we are encouraging local planning authorities to relax planning conditions on caravan parks, campsites and holiday parks to extend the season.”
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