JULY 2021: News from the Metro Mayor Dan Norris
We can all help our tourism sector recover
THE West of England is truly amazing, as my first month as Metro Mayor has reminded me again and again. With Summer finally here, I’ve enjoyed speaking to a huge range of people and businesses vital to our tourism industry.
I had a great time at ‘We the Curious’ playing football with robots and seeing a TARDIS, plus I stuck my neck out and met some giraffes at Wild Place. I rode an e-bike in Bath. The fantastic Julian House is buying a fleet of these, thanks to a grant from the West of England Combined Authority, which I now lead, and they plan to get tourists on the bikes to create vital new income for the charity.
I discovered another way tourists can see Bath too: by paddle board! Wild Swim Bike Run is a small business that’s making a splash. Run by ex-military man Darroch Davidson, they’ve also benefited from West of England Combined Authority cash and are looking to take on more staff. Now, I have to admit my paddle boarding experience was a bit wobbly! But wobbly probably also reflects the wider mood in the tourism industry.
Launching a new events guide for our region with Visit Bristol and Bath, I found out more about the effect of the pandemic on our tourism industry. Over 3.8 million people used to visit annually, spending over £900m, and that meant local jobs and prosperity - around 8% of local employment is reliant on visitors.
The West of England Combined Authority has a number of important schemes to support our tourism sector. I have pledged to double the £9 million covid recovery fund to target those local businesses hardest hit by the pandemic. Then there is a scheme helping people match their skills to new jobs and our successful programme for those creative people working in the cultural sector - musicians, artists and tour guides.
Worryingly, though, we still haven’t seen the Government’s Tourism Recovery Plan; great swathes of this sector have been excluded from current Government schemes.
One thing we can all do is support our local tourism attractions and pop into cafes and restaurants. After all, as the government keeps changing the countries where we are allowed to holiday in, in a way designed to perplex, I’m not sure that many people will be booking overseas breaks.
But we are so lucky with what’s on our doorstep. We also need to talk up our area as a brilliant place to visit. And that means all of our villages and beautiful market towns, too.
I was in Keynsham laying a paving slab as part of my plan to invest in our high streets because I don’t want people just to visit Bristol and Bath, wonderful as they are, and miss out on the equally brilliant bits in between.
We need a tourism strategy that brings jobs and opportunities to our whole region.