Senior Labour politicians have called on Ministers to extend the furloughing scheme to the tourism industry as fears mount over the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the UK’s economy.
The call has come as forecasts revealed more than 5,000 tourism and hospitality jobs are in line to be lost in Sheffield, while Leeds is expecting that six million fewer visitors will come to the city this year than did in 2019.
A spokesperson for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport revealed that the Government is considering ways to “support the sector further”, but did not set out any detailed plans.
Projections generated for Sheffield suggest that the value of the city’s visitor economy is to drop by around £500m from £1.36bn in 2019 to £0.86bn by the end of this year - with the number of jobs supported directly and indirectly by its tourism industry falling from 15,000 to 9,300.
A spokesperson for Sheffield Council said the figures highlighted the need for a long-term rebuilding strategy. “What this suggests is that whilst 2020 needs our attention, 2021 and 2022 will be where we really need to focus our strategy to rebuild the value of the sector.”
The near 40 per cent drop in the size of the economy mirrors recent projections in North Yorkshire, where modelling for the York and North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership has warned up to 20,000 jobs are at risk.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Leeds City Council said that after welcoming 30.4m visitors to the city in 2019, this year the numbers are “expected to drop to levels not seen since 2012”, when 23.7m people visited.
Belinda Elridge, head of service for inward investment, international relations and visitor economy at Leeds City Council, said the authority was forecasting a drop of “at least one-third” in the value of business tourism to the city, having been worth about £560m last year.
Shadow Business Minister Lucy Powell said there was an urgent need for the furlough scheme to be extended for certain sectors beyond October - especially given the local lockdowns in West Yorkshire further hindering businesses in those areas.
“These figures are shocking, but not surprising,” she said. “Yorkshire is one of the jewels in the UK’s tourism crown, and while hospitality and tourism was thriving in the region before Covid-19, this industry has been disproportionately impacted by the crisis.
"Businesses in the tourism and hospitality industry cannot operate as normal, particularly in those areas affected by local lockdown measures, and yet financial support is now being rapidly removed to fit an arbitrary deadline. It clearly doesn’t make sense to remove emergency economic measures when emergency public health measures are still in place.
“The Government must end its damaging and ill-thought through blanket approach, and instead properly target support, protecting businesses and jobs at the heart of Yorkshire’s economy.”
Government 'considering further measures'
The Government has provided unprecedented support to the nation’s tourism industry during coronavirus through measures like business rates holidays - but may still go further if it is required, a spokesperson has said.
The spokesperson added: “We have helped this country’s tourism industry through an unprecedented package of support including the job retention scheme, a years’ business rates holiday and most recently a reduction in VAT benefitting the sector.
“We are also encouraging people to boost tourism businesses and protect jobs through a campaign to enjoy the summer safely. We are considering ways in which we may be able to support the sector further.”
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