The First Minister has reiterated that the Welsh tourism sector can only reopen “when its safe to do so”, despite a warning that Anglesey could face “large scale unemployment” unless action is taken.
According to the Anglesey Tourism Association, which is the county most dependant on tourism, the island is facing a “desperate future” unless agreed dates and a plan for recovery is unveiled.
Warning that this would have a long-term impact on the isand’s economy, employment and prosperity, they have joined the island’s MS and economic development chief to urge ministers to take their concerns seriously.
Said to employ 4,000 people on Anglesey, tourism brings over 1.7m people to the island every year and contributes £304 million to the local economy.
According to the First Minister, the Welsh Government is committed to doing “all it feasibly can” to support the sector and allow for a “safe, phased reopening.”
On Wednesday, meanwhile, economy minister Ken Skates said that the Welsh Government “hoped to be able to say something positive” for the tourism industry when lockdown restrictions are reviewed in early July.
But in a letter to the First Minister, signed by Rhun ap Iorwerth MS and Cllr Carwyn Jones as well as sector leaders on the island, businesses are said to be “desperate” to reopen and to secure their future viability, but have been frustrated by the lack of such a timetable in Wales.
Claiming that other devolved administrations and the UK Government are providing more clarity, they claim that the situation “significantly disadvantages” Welsh businesses, and “further confuses the UK population.”
In England, the UK government has allowed for unlimited travel and for groups of six to meet, while in Wales there remains a “rule of thumb” five mile travel limit to meet others from another household outdoors.
The letter goes on to say that tourism and hospitality businesses now face having to decide if they can honour their bookings for July and August of 2020 and that unless they are allowed to operate, payments and deposits will need to be refunded within the next 10 days.
Claiming that supply chains are also suffering, including food suppliers, they added: “Tourism businesses cannot and are not prepared to invest money they can ill afford to become Covid 19 compliant without a clear timescale as to when they will be allowed to reopen.
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“If different timescales to reopening tourism are applied in different parts of the UK, and Wales opens later than other nations, there is real potential for damage to the sector, to individual tourism businesses and the supply economy.
“We cannot work without a clear plan for re-opening, including dates (subject to any change in scientific advice).
“If these cannot be provided, we would accept a tourism ‘closed for business until ?’ decision, as this allows us to plan for a viable future, as long as additional support is provided.
“Without it, we face large scale unemployment on Anglesey due to the reliance on the tourism and hospitality economy.”
In response, 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.”