The impact of being placed into a tier three lockdown has devastated Blackpool’s tourism industry – as well as the many businesses who depend on it.
Desperate Blackpool hoteliers who ‘lost thousands’ due to Covid-19-related cancellations protest lack of Government help
These firms have done all they can to help in the fight against Covid-19, keeping people safe, but now they need protecting.
The timing of the new restrictions could not have been worse. The next two weeks were supposed to save 2020 for many.
Instead trips to the seaside have been cancelled en masse. Without urgent support in their hour of need, traders fear for their livelihoods.
That is why a letter – signed by The Gazette as well as individuals and organisations representing more than 1,000 resort businesses – has been delivered to Number 10 asking for help.
Some of the biggest names in Blackpool have thrown their support behind the campaign to save the town’s struggling hotels, B&B, tourist attractions and the many firms who support and depend upon them.
The open letter to Boris Johnson calls for a genuine commitment to sit down with local leaders and find a solution to this problem – to find a way to help these businesses before it is too late.
The letter argues that these firms, who for years have provided the solid foundations of Blackpool’s thriving tourism sector but who are now hanging on by a thread, are too important to us all to be allowed to fail.
Many of these businesses have fallen through the cracks and say the support they need is not there. Business forced to close by the new tier three restrictions have access to aid – but those who can stay open yet find their trade decimated cannot.
While Lancashire’s deal with the government included cash to help such firms, the letter argues that a “one size fits all solution does not work in every case”.
It adds: “When Blackpool’s share of that settlement is set against the scale of the problem that needs to be addressed, it is entirely disproportionate.
“Unless there is Government intervention, the likelihood is that we will have no foundations on which to build when the process of recovery begins.”
Coun Lynn Williams, leader of Blackpool Council, said: “The speed at which our tourism economy has unravelled on the back of last week’s lockdown restrictions is alarming.
“What has become totally apparent is that the measures that have been put in place are nowhere near enough to support a tourism economy like Blackpool’s.
“We have hundreds of businesses here that were not included in any of the Government’s temporary closure orders but due to the imposition of regulations and advice relating to travel are more likely facing permanent closure.”
Hotel owners from South to North Shore gathered in Gynn Square on Wednesday to protest the lack of financial support they have received during these difficult times.
Claire Smith, president of Stay Blackpool, which represents around 200 independent hotels and guest houses, said: “Announcing Tier 3 restrictions on a Friday afternoon at the start of a half term holiday week shows a complete lack of understanding of how a tourism economy works.
“It created total chaos with visitors not knowing where they could go or what they could do when they got here. The end result was cancellations on a scale that none of us in the hotel industry have ever experienced before.
“The accommodation sector is a vital element of Blackpool’s tourism economy and unless something is done immediately, parts of it will never recover.”
Kate Shane, of Merlin Entertainments, said: “Throughout this pandemic we have fully supported the Government efforts. We invested significant amounts in training, PPE and enhanced measures to ensure we were Covid safe for all of our guests and employees before we re-opened in July.
“We feel we have done everything asked of us and more. All we ask in return is that the Government does right by us and puts in place bespoke measures that will help all of Blackpool’s tourism businesses get to the other side of this crisis.”
Jane Cole, managing director of Blackpool Transport and President of the Confederation of Passenger Transport, said: “The importance of Blackpool’s tourism economy goes far beyond our own boundaries.
“It supports supply chains throughout the UK and not least in the travel industry where the coach industry is facing its own challenges during this pandemic.
“There needs to be an immediate recognition that if Blackpool’s tourism economy stumbles, then a great many businesses that rely on its success will fall over too.”
Paul Smith, project director for Blackpool Pride Of Place, said: “We are working on a very clear agenda for the regeneration of Blackpool, one that will see it revitalised in the years ahead.
“To see that falter because of a lack of support for the resort during a time of crisis will be heart-breaking. Once we come out of this pandemic and move into a recovery process it is vital that we have foundations on which to build.”
Martin Long, chairman of the Blackpool Business Leadership Group, a network of more than 250 businesses, said: “In reality, what is happening to Blackpool’s tourism industry right now could have serious implications for years to come unless something is done.
“Tens of thousands of people are directly employed within the tourism sector, but there are many, many more who work in the supply chain and are almost wholly dependent on there being a thriving visitor economy.”