Posted: Fri 12th Jun 2020

North Wales tourism bosses condemn Welsh Government’s handling of easing lockdown measures

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Friday, Jun 12th, 2020

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North Wales tourism bosses have condemned the Welsh Government’s handling of easing coronavirus lockdown measures

The board of North Wales Tourism, which represents more than 2,000 tourism and hospitality firms, said its members had witnessed with horror the impact of COVID-19 on people’s lives.

As a result, they said they had obeyed the lockdown rules implemented to stop the spread of the virus in March, despite losing hundreds of millions of pounds worth of income.

However, in an open letter to the First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford, they warned many companies were now “teetering on a knife-edge” as other countries in the UK announce plans to allow the sector to resume business in some capacity.

They claimed Wales was the only country yet to provide “any hope at all” and criticised the way ministers have handled the situation.

They said: “As other home nations open, we continue to suffer huge losses. We are no longer contributing to the greater good — we are contributing more.

“It is entirely possible that Wales is in a unique situation and that the scientific advice metered out to other nations in the UK does not apply to us.

“Or it could be that your government have genuine reasons for your inaction. If it’s the former, please show us the science.”

Earlier this week, Mr Drakeford invoked the ire of the industry following an interview published in the iNewspaper in which he was quoted as saying Wales will remain largely shut over the summer with visitors likely to be restricted to staying in cottages and self-catering flats.

He also indicated that the ban on travelling more than five miles in the country would remain in place well into July.

The letter by the tourism body accused the Labour leader of showing “no regard nor respect” for the sector.

In a press conference, the First Minister denied that he said tourism was essentially over for the year.

He argued there were grounds for optimism for businesses but that they must acknowledge they will have to operate differently.

North Wales Tourism also accused Mr Drakeford of failing to consult with companies in the region.

The letter continues: “We don’t believe you have been in conversation with a single one of our members. If you are consulting with local authorities and South Wales businesses, this will not reflect the needs of our region.

“We cannot be in lockdown forever and it is clear we are going to have to live with Covid-19 for some time yet.

“We are confident that our tourism and hospitality businesses will be able to provide all necessary measures to protect their employees, visitors and communities.

“We have already been working hard on preparing for a safe return despite the lack of clarity from your government.”

According to the body, tourism is directly worth more than £3.2bn a year to the North Wales economy and provides approximately 42,000 jobs.

On top of that, they said the industry supports an “enormous” supply chain, meaning many more businesses in the region depend on the sector.

They told the First Minister: “This is not a debate between business and lives. These are our communities too. This is about the potential for a sector to be decimated so badly it will take years to recover.

“This is about many thousands of people who have poured their heart and soul and everything they own into growing a tourism business that brings them enormous pride and creates jobs, now facing a future in which they have lost everything.

“This is about communities who depend on those businesses facing higher levels of unemployment and inequalities.

“Some communities who depend almost exclusively from tourism jobs and income may not recover.”

They called for Mr Drakeford to be decisive and offer them hope by providing a clear road map for opening.

In the event that he declines, they asked him to provide the scientific evidence behind his decision making.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “The First Minister has been clear that this government is committed to doing all we feasibly can to support the sector and to allow for a safe, phased reopening.

“The feedback we’ve had from the tourism industry has been invaluable in helping to support it during the pandemic.

“We are very aware of the concerns and the desire to reopen but only when it is safe to do so.

“We are also very aware of the concerns of communities that nothing should be done which could exacerbate the spread of coronavirus.

“Tourism is a vital part of the Welsh economy at a national, regional and local level. It is therefore critical that we continue to work with the industry and local communities to ensure a safe return of tourism, this includes developing detailed guidance and protocols to support the sector and protect the community, staff and visitors.”

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