Putting out the welcome signs

Every journey has to start somewhere and Lancashire tourism chiefs hope their roadmap will give the county’s beleaguered visitor economy the route to post-Covid recovery.

Unveiled in February, Marketing Lancashire’s “Redefining the Rule of Six’ plan for Lancashire tourism and hospitality sets out half a dozen priorities to help businesses through this year and into next.

Key points include working to collate and share useful data and intelligence, lobbying the government for further support, working to improve customer confidence in the county and backing major initiatives such as Lancashire’s City of Culture bid.

The pandemic has had a devastating impact on the sector. Nationally, 2020 saw an estimated £73bn drop in revenue - a 57 per cent fall from the year before. The latest lockdown will increase that even further.

According to one study, 41 per cent of businesses surveyed suggested that they would fail by mid-2021. Tourism bosses in Lancashire say that would translate into a £2.5bn loss to the county’s GVA and without targeted support could result in more than 25,000 job losses.

A Marketing Lancashire survey during the second lockdown revealed 99 per cent of the county’s tourism and hospitality businesses had been hit by the impact of Covid-19, with 78 per cent of them saying they would not be ale to last more than six months.

Since then, the furlough scheme has been extended, discretionary grants have been made available and the bounce back loan scheme has been launched. Despite those welcome measures, businesses are still failing.

The roll out of the vaccination programme gives some glimmer of hope, but the recovery for tourism will not be fast-paced.

National forecasts suggest that it will be 2022 before domestic tourism recovers to 2019 levels, with international tourism not returning to pre Covid-19 levels until 2023.It is against that backdrop that the recovery plan has been drawn up, with its authors stressing it is for the short-term and is likely to evolve as the situation changes.

The strategy has been devised with input from Lancashire’s local authorities, the LEP’s Tourism, Culture and Place sector group and Visit Lancashire partners.

Rachel McQueen, chief executive of Marketing Lancashire, says: “It is critical that we make every effort to support the sector during this extended lock down, and put plans in place to build consumer confidence as soon as we are able to do so, focused on making Lancashire a must-visit destination once travel is allowed. 

“Right now, we need practical action plans to help businesses survive and ensure that they are able to generate maximum income when they are able to welcome visitors back in a safe, Covid-secure environment.

“Lancashire has demonstrated its commitment to the health and wellbeing of both our residents and visitors, with hundreds of businesses signed up to the national ‘We’re Good to Go’ standard. We need to make sure that everyone is aware of what we have to offer across the county.” 

She adds: “Lancashire is 80 per cent rural, with 137 miles of coastline and an incredible variety of attractions and accommodation options. We fully intend to be promoting Lancashire’s offer as soon as it is possible for our tourism and hospitality businesses to welcome visitors back.” 

Tourism's route to recovery

1. Identifying platforms for collaboration

Ensuring that intelligence which is being gathered across both destination specific and countywide sector groups and networks is being shared appropriately for mutual benefit

2. Lobbying for additional sector specific support

Giving Lancashire’s visitor economy a strong, co-ordinated voice at a regional, pan-regional and national level, ensuring that the specific needs of the rural and coastal visitor economy are fully represented.

3. Inspire consumer confidence and demand

Building the profile of Lancashire and maximising the legacy of the 3.9m reach secured in late summer 2020 through a successful pitch for funds from the Cabinet Office connected to the ‘Enjoy Summer Safely’ campaign.

4. Position Lancashire as a must visit destination

Aligning all campaign activity to extend the collective reach and deliver a campaign that positions Lancashire as a must visit destination.

5. Further develop proposals for a ‘Connect Lancashire’ platform

Seeking investment for the digital infrastructure to deliver visitor management to help tourism and hospitality businesses to build back safely in a way that maximises income. Developing proposals for a potential app that will provide ‘real time’ information to visitors.

6. Secure maximum benefit for the sector

Supporting the Lancashire 2025 bid team to create a compelling case for Lancashire to host the UK City of Culture and proposals for the Eden North Project at Morecambe. Also supporting Visit Blackpool in the delivery of its post-Covid recovery plan.

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