Tourism chiefs unite in call for more government action

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Birmingham Hippodrome boss Fiona Allan heads up the region's newest tourism body

TOURISM bosses from across the West Midlands have come together to highlight how the government can provide more support for the industry during and after the coronavirus crisis.

They spoke out after the first meeting of the Regional Board for Tourism, made up of people from sports, culture, conferencing and hotel venues, attractions, transport, travel trade, skills providers, and the public sector.

Representatives from the Herald area on the 16-strong board are Shakespeare’s England CEO Helen Peters and Nick Blofeld, divisional director at Warwick Castle.

They welcomed the steps the government has already taken in its business rates holiday and cash grants for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses.

But they are also calling on ministers for more action – and explanation.

Chair Fiona Allan, artistic director and chief executive of Birmingham Hippodrome, said: “We welcome the new business support offered by the government, which will go a small way to mitigate some effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we know first-hand that this is simply not enough for many of our region’s tourism businesses.

“That is why the government must act immediately to introduce grant support for the many independent, not-for-profit tourism businesses that are not ordinarily in receipt of other revenue funding, or whose business rates exceed the eligibility threshold.

“We also call upon insurance companies and the government to clarify the Chancellor’s statement that COVID-19 would be classified as an insurable event. To date, insurance companies have rejected the statement, leaving hundreds of businesses confused.

 “The new board will meet regularly to represent the West Midlands’ great tourism organisations. We urge anybody within this sector to contact us with any difficulties during this challenging time, so that we can help shape the region’s future together.”

The board is supported by the West Midlands Growth Company (WMGC) and has been formed to deliver the region’s £1 billion Tourism Strategy and advocate for funding from government.

It is developing a bid to be one of the UK’s five future tourism zones to support the industry in various areas such as product development, mentoring, integrated visitor transport planning, digital skills training and extending the visitor season across business and leisure tourism.

It will also focus on planning activity for the eventual economic upturn, the 2021 UK City of Culture in Coventry and the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games.