Support and Guidance for Tourism Businesses

The West Midlands Growth Company (WMGC) is continuing to monitor the impact of COVID-19 on the region’s tourism sector.

To help tourism and hospitality businesses keep track of the wide range of guidance and support on offer, WMGC will update this page based on information from government and tourism bodies.

Engaging with our tourism and hospitality commercial partners is a key priority for the company over the coming weeks and months. Please do not hesitate to contact our team on tourism@wmgrowth.com, so that we can signpost you to support, or understand what your business needs in order to lobby on your behalf.

Here is the latest information on support schemes for businesses.

12 October - new local COVID alert levels

On 12 October, the Prime Minister announced a new three-tiered system of local COVID alert levels in England.

The alert levels are “medium”, “high” and “very high”. The “medium” alert level – which will cover most of the country – will consist of the current national measures, which came into force on 25 September.

The “high” alert level will reflect many current local interventions, but there will now be consistency across the country. The “very high” alert level will apply where transmission rates are causing the greatest concern, based on an assessment of all the available data and the local situation.

For more details on the COVID alert levels, click here.

24 September announcement – Winter Economy Plan

On 24 September, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak outlined the UK’s Winter Economy Plan.
The plan is designed to protect jobs and support businesses who continue to feel the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. New measures include:

  • A new Job Support Scheme that will top up the pay of an employee who has worked a minimum of 33% of their hours
  • An extension to the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme until 30 April 2021
  • More time and greater flexibility on the repayments of the Bounce Back Loan scheme
  • Applications for all coronavirus loan schemes – including the Future Fund – will be extended to 30 November 2020
  • Businesses who deferred their VAT will no longer have to pay a lump sum at the end of March next year. They will have the option of splitting it into smaller, interest free payments over the course of 11 months
  • Self-assessed income taxpayers can also extend their outstanding VAT tax bill over 12 months from January
  • The 15% VAT rate cut for the tourism and hospitality sectors has been extended to the end of March 2021

To find our more click here.

22 September announcement – new measures across England

From 24 September, a number of new measures will come into force across England. They include:

  • Staff in hospitality venues must wear a face covering
  • Businesses selling food or drink must be closed between 10pm and 5am
  • Table-service only in hospitality venues
  • Businesses will need to display the official NHS QR code posters so that customers can ‘check-in’
  • Work from home if you can

To find out more click here.

New NHS COVID-19 app

Launching on 24 September, the new NHS COVID-19 app will help businesses meet the new legal requirement to record the contact details of customers, visitors and staff on their premises.
The app will allow you to create a unique QR code for your business, which can be scanned by customers to fill in their details for NHS Test and Trace. More here.

NHS QR codes and ‘rule of six’ – all you need to know

There has been considerable confusion regarding the new requirements on tourism businesses regarding the Rule of Six that came into effect on 18th September in England and the new QR codes associated with the NHS Track and Trace app that come into effect on 24th September.

1. New Legal Requirements

On 18th September, it became a legal requirement for tourism and hospitality businesses to gain the following information from customers:

  • the name of the customer or visitor. If there is more than one person, then you can record the name of the ‘lead member’ of the group (of up to 6 people) and the number of people in the group
  • a contact phone number for each customer or visitor, or for the lead member of a group of people. If a phone number is not available, you should ask for their email address instead, or if neither are available, then postal address
  • date of visit, arrival time and, where possible, departure time
  • the name of the assigned staff member, if a customer or visitor will interact with only one member of staff (for example, a hairdresser). This should be recorded alongside the name of the customer or visitor

(In addition, operators must keep a record of all staff working on the premises, their shift times on a given day and their contact details).

2. QR Codes
The use of QR codes connected to the NHS’s Track and Trace App as a means of collecting the required information from customers was initially voluntary. However, on 18th September the Government decided that all tourism and hospitality businesses needed to use the QR Codes from 24th September.

This means that you now have to go to the following website and generate a specific QR Code for each business premises you have, print a poster to be displayed somewhere visitors can see it and ask customers to scan it when they arrive, using the NHS COVID-19 app.

If customers scan the QR Code, you do not have to collect the information specified above.

You do not need to ask someone for their contact details or to scan the NHS QR Code if the person visiting is:

  • a police officer or emergency responder on duty
  • making a delivery or collection by supplies or contractors, including food or physical goods.
  • under the age of 16. 

3. Rule of Six
It is also now an offence for the following business not to adhere to the Rule of Six when taking a booking or allowing entry to a group of customers:

  • hospitality, including pubs, bars, restaurants and cafés
  • tourism and leisure, including tourism accommodation, museums, cinemas, zoos and theme parks 

Businesses that do not comply with the Rule of Six can be fined issue £1,000 for the first offence, £2,000 for the second, £3,000 for the third and £4,000 for any offences after that. The regulations will be enforced by Local Authorities. However, with the new restrictions announced on 22 September, these fines could be increased to £10,000.

9 September announcement – tightening of restrictions across England

From 14 September, new social distancing and self-isolation measures will commence. This will mean that only six people from a maximum of six different households will be able to gather indoors and outdoors.
To find out more click here.

Local authority guidance

The local authorities in which your business operates continue to keep their pages up-to-date with information that is unique to your locality.

Please ensure that you are also checking these pages regularly so you are fully up to speed on the latest news, advice and guidance in your area:

Official government guidance

Tourism-specific guidance

Click here for all visitor economy coronavirus guidance.

Click here for details about maintaining records of staff, customers and visitors to support NHS Test and Trace.


General business guidance

Click here for all business coronavirus guidance.

‘We’re Good To Go’ industry standard 

VisitBritain / VisitEngland has launched a new industry standard and consumer mark for tourism businesses. The ‘We’re Good To Go’ standard is free to join and ensures tourism businesses can demonstrate they are managing their property in a COVID-19 safe manner.

To obtain the mark, businesses must complete a self-assessment including a check-list confirming they have put the necessary processes in place, before receiving certification and the ‘We’re Good To Go’ mark for display in their premises and online.

Financial support and schemes

The UK Government and other organisations have rolled out grants and loans to help businesses manage the impact of COVID-19. Schemes that have a direct link to the tourism industry can be found below:

Click here to find out what support your business is eligible for.

All applications for coronavirus loan schemes have been extended to 30 November 2020.

Job Support Scheme – Winter Economy Plan

From 1 November, the Government will pay a third of hours not worked up to a cap with the employer also contributing a third. 

This will ensure employees earn a minimum of 77% of their normal wages with the employer also contributing a third. This will ensure employees earn a minimum of 77% of their normal wages.
More information here.

Arts Council funding

A combined £363 million has been made avaliable to arts and culture venues in the UK.

Some applications run until mid-March 2021. More here.

Cash Grant for Retail, Hospitality and Leisure

  • Small businesses in the retail, hospitality or leisure sector with a rateable value of £15,000 and £51,000 will receive £25,000 each. Find out more here.
  • More details on eligibility here. 

Local Authority Discretionary Grants Fund

  • Small and micro businesses with fixed property costs that are not eligible for the Small Business Grant Fund or the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund may be eligible for the Discretionary Grants Scheme.
  • You can get a grant of £25,000, £10,000 or any amount under £10,000.

Find out more here

Business Rates Holiday for Retail, Hospitality and Leisure

  • Businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors in England will not have to pay business rates for the 2020-21 tax year.

Find out more here. 

Bounce Back Loan

The Bounce Back Loan scheme will help small and medium-sized businesses to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000.

The government will guarantee 100% of the loan and there won’t be any fees or interest to pay for the first 12 months.

Find out more here.

Zoo and Aquarium Support Fund

•    If you run a licensed zoo or aquarium in England and are experiencing severe financial difficulties because of lost revenue, you can apply for a grant of up to £100,000.

Find out more here.

Reach Solutions’ Marketing Support

Reach Solutions has announced #IAmOpen, a new campaign to support local businesses to market themselves effectively during the COVID-19 recovery with free services and low cost options.

Free solutions include creative design services, social media posts, a website design and multimedia video creation.

Visit here for more information.

Official updates and guidance from tourism bodies

Below are links to various tourism groups’ COVID-19 updates, statements and guidance. If you cannot find a relevant group to your business in this list, please contact your association directly.

COVID-19 Portals

A number of local business support organisations have created web portals and hubs to give you the most accurate information and guidance. These include:

Further advice and guidance

There is also a Government business support hotline to answer COVID-19 calls from businesses here.

VisitEngland's Business Advice Hub can help your business grow

VisitEngland’s free Business Advice Hub helps tourism businesses to grow, with free resources, advice and toolkits.

The Hub includes practical information on what to do when starting up, employing staff, how to be legally compliant and where to find local support. Become ‘internationally ready’ with the new Inbound Tourism Toolkit or improve your online presence using the Digital Marketing Toolkit.
Go to visitengland.org/businessadvice to get started.

Last updated: 13 October 2020