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

Part of Backbench Business – in Westminster Hall am 1:54 pm ar 22 Chwefror 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Sally-Ann Hart Sally-Ann Hart Ceidwadwyr, Hastings and Rye 1:54, 22 Chwefror 2024

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Mrs Cummins. I congratulate my hon. Friend Selaine Saxby on securing today’s debate.

It is important to acknowledge the Government’s work following covid-19 to support and rebuild our tourism and hospitality sector, with reductions in VAT and business rates, the job retention scheme, business grants, and support for coastal communities with the recent news that holiday lets will be controlled this summer through a registration scheme and a planning permission requirement. I am delighted that the Government have taken that step, which is something I have raised directly with Ministers, think-tanks and through the APPG for coastal communities.

Despite all that support, coastal communities have significant underfunding challenges. My beautiful constituency of Hastings and Rye is a tourist hub, in 1066 Country. Based on the most recent figures for 1066 Country, tourism supports more than 12,600 jobs locally, with an estimated turnover of £550 million per year. However, like many other coastal communities, there is a lack of specific and targeted fiscal support.

Tourism has long been overlooked as an industry. I am delighted that the Minister was previously a tourism Minister, so has a great understanding of the industry. It is often described as a Cinderella industry, but is vital to the UK’s economic growth. UK-wide, tourism is recognised as an important part of rural and coastal economies and has huge potential for growth, particularly in the more deprived rural areas and coastal towns and villages, where there is untapped potential to generate tourism-related economic growth and employment.

Essential infrastructure, such as roads, public spaces and facilities catering to tourists, often suffers from neglect due to insufficient financial support. It is imperative that the Government prioritise strategic investment. It is great to see levelling-up funding going into many coastal areas, with Hastings and Rother receiving in total £80 million over the next few years. The tourism sector cannot thrive in this country without sufficient fiscal support. By investing in the upkeep and promotion of coastal areas, often by providing seed funding to leverage in private-sector investment, the Government can ensure the long-term sustainability of both the tourism sector and the unique identity of these areas.

Many businesses have felt the effect of the national minimum wage increases. That could be mitigated by temporary cuts to the lower rate of employment national insurance contributions to 10%, and/or an increase to the lower threshold. Additionally, permanently reducing the rate of VAT to 12.5% for hospitality businesses, as my hon. Friend the Member for North Devon said, would help them to recover and thrive without having to reduce employment or increase prices.

The Pragmatix report, “Communities on the Edge”, into which the APPG for coastal communities that I chair had significant input, made a number of recommendations to support the visitor economy, such as improving seasonal workers visa schemes for temporary hospitality workers and supporting the initiation of business mentorships for small coastal enterprises to share best practice and help with the digital transition. I encourage relevant Ministers to look at that report.

The hospitality and service industries sustained by the tourism sector are particularly crucial for the livelihoods of coastal residents. I thank all the hospitality and service workers and businesses in Hastings and Rye for their dedication and amazing hard work. Supporting tourism in coastal communities is not just an investment in the local economy: it is an investment in our residents. We have amazing hospitality businesses—I cannot go through them all because they are all so incredible. There are cafes, restaurants, pubs—so many things. I invite Members to come and see for themselves: Hastings and Rye is a fantastic place to visit.

Due to the seasonality of tourism in the UK, it is vital that the hospitality and tourism sector is properly supported through a replacement for the coastal communities fund for projects that specially tackled that issue. I emphasise that point: we need specific policy funding and a strategic plan for our coastal communities. Coastal communities need increased fiscal support, especially in the summer months, to combat the impact of seasonality, manage waste issues and over-congestion and provide a larger police presence due to antisocial behaviour in tourist hotspots such as Camber Sands, which on hot summer days might get 25,000 visitors coming at once. We therefore need a fairer funding formula for local authorities, the police and other public sector services. It is essential that we do not leave any of our coastal communities behind due to poor fiscal investment: we must prioritise them.