Cabinet Minister Oliver Dowden was invited to sample the unique hospitality offered by Butlins in Bognor and listen to the challenges facing tourist destinations in a Covid-world. And the message he was hearing was stark: West Sussex alone predicts a £10.6bn drop in visitor spend.
The Secretary of State for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden participated in a round-table discussion organised by the Experience West Sussex Destination Partnership, joining business leaders, including Jon Hendry-Pickup, Managing Director, Butlin’s Resort, Bognor Regis – the hosts of the event.
The discussions focused on the impact Covid-19 has had on the tourism sector, how the summer season is progressing, the measures being taken to keep visitors safe and the ways in which government can help the industry in the coming months.
The MP for Hertsmere confirmed via Twitter: “Interesting roundtable at Butlin’s with tourism businesses in Sussex. We talked about the help they have got via government schemes and what more we can do to assist them in their recovery. Whilst the challenges facing them are many, they are working hard to welcome back visitors safely,” adding his praise for Butlin’s’ famous Red Coats who, he said, were “…going above and beyond to help families enjoy their summer.”
Bob Lanzer, West Sussex County Council’s Cabinet Member for Economy, said: “Tourism is such an important sector for the West Sussex economy, supporting more than 37,000 jobs. We were pleased to highlight to the Secretary of State the hard work of the Experience West Sussex Destination Partnership – hosted by the County Council – in supporting businesses and consumer confidence to ensure we can enjoy summer safely.
“We also welcomed the opportunity to discuss wider challenges faced by many of our attractions and businesses due to the impact of Covid-19.”
Nigel Lynn, Chairman of Experience West Sussex Destination Partnership and Chief Executive of Arun District Council, said: “Tourism has been particularly hard hit because of its obvious seasonality, with the coastal areas being an essential economic driver to the county. With the recent announcement of a confirmed recession, we know that the coastal towns are already badly affected by this.
“Recent Experience West Sussex forecasts indicate a decline of 59 percent for visits in 2020 and a drop of £10.6bn in visitor spend.
“We are really pleased that the Secretary of State understands the value of tourism to West Sussex. It has given Experience West Sussex and Arun District Council an opportunity to highlight issues and ask directly for support which will help to build the tourism offer for our Coastal areas.”
The Experience West Sussex Partnership represents the interests of the region’s visitor economy. As well as being a central voice on tourism, the partnership delivers local business support and creative marketing campaigns to attract visitors to the area.
image courtesy of Oliver Dowden Twitter