Coastal Tourism and Hospitality: Fiscal Support — [Judith Cummins in the Chair]

Part of Backbench Business – in Westminster Hall am 1:30 pm ar 22 Chwefror 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Selaine Saxby Selaine Saxby Ceidwadwyr, North Devon 1:30, 22 Chwefror 2024

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered fiscal support for tourism and hospitality in coastal areas.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs Cummins. Today I wish to highlight the vital role of hospitality in our coastal communities, such as my North Devon constituency, and the support that the sector needs and deserves. I thank UKHospitality for its ongoing work and support on this matter. I had the opportunity to bring Kate Nicholls, its chief executive officer, to North Devon last year to meet some of the fabulous hospitality businesses and hear their frustrations as well as their plans for the future. We visited businesses such as the Saunton Sands Hotel, the Carlton Hotel and the George & Dragon in Ilfracombe, and SQ Bar and Restaurant in Braunton.

Some of the challenges facing the sector are not always obvious, particularly in remote coastal locations. Hospitality venues extend far beyond just pubs, hotels and restaurants, and include holiday parks, music venues, bowling, children’s play centres, bars and clubs, which contribute so much to all our enjoyment of coastal areas and resorts as well as to the economy.

I have been lobbying Ministers for quite some time to continue to find solutions to ensure that this vital part of the economy of North Devon and so many other coastal areas continues to thrive. I thank this Minister—the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, my hon. Friend Nigel Huddleston—who I know is a champion for the sector, for his ongoing patience and engagement in listening to my concerns and those of my constituents.

My hon. Friend visited Ilfracombe back in 2021 in his previous role as Minister for tourism. We met several business owners and discussed business rates, VAT thresholds and Ilfracombe’s ambitions in hospitality. I am sure that he recalls the unanimous voice of Ilfracombe’s tourism sector calling for the Government to raise the £85,000 VAT threshold, which currently sees much of Ilfracombe, like so many coastal communities, close its doors when the businesses reach the threshold. When first elected, I naively thought that that was just seasonality, but as staycations came back into vogue post pandemic, we saw some businesses close in mid-August as the threshold was reached. Indeed, a local accountant told me just last weekend that he advises all his hospitality businesses to remain below the threshold. At a time when we are looking for our economy to grow, why do we have a threshold that creates a cliff edge that does the exact opposite for the hospitality sector?

North Devon alone is home to nearly 2,500 hospitality venues, employing more than 8,000 people and contributing more than £400 million to our local economy. The hospitality sector’s success is vital for economic prosperity and plays a crucial role in shaping the very essence of our community. Yet despite the resilience inherent in the sector, recent years have presented unprecedented challenges, particularly in our coastal towns. The impacts of the covid-19 pandemic, coupled with the energy crisis and a labour market grappling with record vacancy levels, have stifled growth and posed significant threats to the sustainability of hospitality businesses—but I also want to draw on the positives that have happened. With all the challenges presented, the Government supported the sector substantially during the pandemic, not least with the furlough scheme, which continued even if hospitality venues were shut.