Industry leaders from the West Midlands have come together to highlight how the government can provide more support for the region’s tourism businesses during and after the coronavirus pandemic.
The feedback follows the Regional Board for Tourism’s inaugural meeting. Comprising representatives from different areas of the West Midlands, the board features experts from sports, culture, conferencing and hotel venues, attractions, transport, travel trade, skills providers, and the public sector.

There was a collective appreciation of the many steps the government has already taken in its business rates holiday and cash grants for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses.
However, the board is calling on ministers to facilitate quicker access to the various schemes already available – and to create more cash grant support for charities and not-for-profit organisations. The board is also seeking clearer rules for existing business support schemes.

Fiona Allan, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Birmingham Hippodrome, was named Chair of the Regional Board for Tourism in November. Fiona has more than 20 years’ experience in the tourism sector. She said: 

“We welcome the new business support offered by the government, which will go a small way to mitigate some effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we know first-hand that this is simply not enough for many of our region’s tourism businesses.
“That is why the government must act immediately to introduce grant support for the many independent, not-for-profit tourism businesses that are not ordinarily in receipt of other revenue funding, or whose business rates exceed the eligibility threshold. 
“We also call upon insurance companies and the government to clarify the Chancellor’s statement that COVID-19 would be classified as an insurable event. To date, insurance companies have rejected the statement, leaving hundreds of businesses confused.
“The new board will meet regularly to represent the West Midlands’ great tourism organisations. We urge anybody within this sector to contact us with any difficulties during this challenging time, so that we can help shape the region’s future together.”

Supported by the West Midlands Growth Company (WMGC) – which aims to attract visitors, investment and event to the region – the board has been formed to deliver the region’s £1 billion Tourism Strategy, create a voice for the area’s tourism sector and advocate for funding from government.

To accomplish this, the board is working on planning for the future of the region’s tourism sector. The board is developing a bid to be one of the UK’s five future tourism zones, which will propose local solutions to raising productivity in the tourism sector. The zones will support the industry in various areas such as product development, mentoring, integrated visitor transport planning, digital skills training and extending the visitor season across business and leisure tourism.

The region’s venues are also playing their part in the fight against coronavirus, with the NEC, Birmingham, becoming an NHS Nightingale hospital for patients with COVID-19. Edgbaston Stadium has also announced it will become a drive-through NHS staff-testing centre for coronavirus.

Furthermore, the board is planning new ways to capitalise on the energy and momentum created across the region before the COVID-19 outbreak. It will focus on planning activity for the eventual economic upturn, the 2021 UK City of Culture in Coventry and the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games, which will attract a global audience and bring fresh spending power to the region.

For more information about the board or for West Midlands tourism organisations seeking guidance during the COVID-19 pandemic, please contact tourism@wmgrowth.com 

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