We welcome the support of the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group and echo the comments made in the intelligence report about the importance of the industries to the North East economy. The tourism and hospitality sector alone supports more than 60,000 jobs and contributes in excess of £5bn to the regional economy. The sector also supports everything from food suppliers and AV companies to ticket printers in its supply chain, proving that the impact is being felt far beyond the direct industry itself.
Without taking into account further restrictions, current estimates show a potential loss to the tourism and hospitality sector of £2.8bn, and the loss of more than 35,000 jobs. The entire ecosystem of the sector is in danger and, unfortunately, we risk losing the places that make the North East such an attractive place to visit, as well as live. City centre accommodation providers and nightlife venues have been especially badly affected due to the curfews introduced.
The tourism, hospitality, and arts and culture sectors have been some of the worse impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Despite the original easing of lockdown rules in the summer, many businesses - including theatres, live music venues and nightclubs - have not been able to open their doors at all since March.
Now during a second period of national lockdown, it is important to remember that the arts, culture, tourism and hospitality industries responded positively after the first lockdown. Many businesses were able to adapt quickly and trade successfully throughout the summer months. The Eat Out to Help Out scheme was hugely popular in the region with an increase in footfall, spending and consumer confidence. It was encouraging to see this appetite to support local businesses and enjoy the unique food and drink, and cultural offering we have in the region.
Businesses have worked hard to ensure they operate safely within government guidelines. Over 1,700 businesses in the North East are now accredited with VisitBritain’s ‘We’re Good to Go’ scheme and many have gone above this level to ensure staff and customers remain safe.
Interestingly 70 per cent of our businesses said that they welcomed the imposition of a national lockdown. Businesses need clarity and the ability to plan and a short lockdown with a definitive end date supported those needs. As we reopen on 3 December we expect a similar level of pent up consumer demand, and the public and private sector will need to work together to ensure we can maximise trading conditions in a safe and secure way.
By Ian Thomas, Director of Leisure Tourism and Research at NewcastleGateshead Initiative