BBC News

Covid: Tourism needs 'four nations approach' to lockdowns

By Tomos Morgan
BBC News

Published
Related Topics
  • Coronavirus pandemic
image captionGwynedd's Italian-inspired village of Portmeirion is currently closed

A unified approach between the UK's four nations is needed for any future lockdowns, a Welsh tourism group says.

Rowland Rhys Evans of Mid Wales Tourism Cymru said different regulations made it difficult for the industry.

The Wales Tourism Alliance said although Wales' lockdown ended on 9 November, up to half of Wales' tourist businesses will remain closed until the English lockdown lifts on 2 December.

The Welsh Government said decisions for Wales would be made within Wales.

The UK government said its financial support measures were helping tourist businesses.

'Disastrous for everyone'

Mr Evans said: "It definitely needs unification now. If we've got different lockdowns and different rules for Christmas, it's going to be disastrous for everyone.

"It's a shame the two governments, and Scotland and Northern Ireland, aren't working together so that we can get on the same song sheet.

"People tend to forget this virus is the same across the UK and the rules should be the same for everyone, because it's difficult when you have a border that isn't a hard border but you've got different regulations on either side of that line."

The Wales Tourism Alliance estimates that 50% of businesses across all sectors in tourism remained closed in Wales after the firebreak and would continue until at least the end of the lockdown in England, with the reliance on tourists from over the border accounting for 80-90% of footfall in some areas of Wales.

Despite the end of Wales' most recent lockdown, the streets of Aberdyfi in Gwynedd are still eerily quiet even for this time of year.

Peter and Elizabeth Holt have run Cafe Medina on the High Street for almost 13 years and have worked in hospitality for over three decades in the area and have never seen it so quiet in November.

"It's nice for the locals, [they] absolutely love it, but as businesses… we need the people," said Mr Holt.

"We are reliant on the English coming into Wales, but we are a small coffee shop and have a small following of locals, so we are OK."

The same might not be the case for others on the High Street - on a mid-week afternoon about two-thirds of the businesses were shut.

image captionMany of Aberdyfi's businesses were closed on a mid-week afternoon

It is the same scene in many other seaside towns along the coast - Tywyn, Barmouth and on the Llŷn Peninsula - areas that are reliant on tourists.

Nanteos Mansion Hotel, near Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, has 26 rooms, a restaurant, bar and hosts weddings.

But one of the hotel's directors Nigel Jones said they had made the decision to only open half the rooms and for only three nights a week until 2 December, when the English lockdown is due to end.

"We based our decision purely on the lockdown in England. It's a major part of our business coming in," he said.

'Planning against the unknown'

"The problem is whether people will feel as keen and secure to go out again as they did after the first lockdown.

"Now they've got Christmas coming up, do they want that threat? It's been hinted at there could be another lockdown in 2021… it's difficult to plan against the unknown."

Some of Wales' best-known tourist attractions and resorts, such as the Celtic Manor outside Newport, Zip World and its adventure tourism in Snowdonia, and the Italian-inspired village of Portmeirion in Gwynedd, have closed for the month.

image captionEngland's current lockdown began on 5 November - four days before Wales' firebreak lockdown ended

David Brown, chairman of the Barmouth Publicity Association, said it was not just hospitality, accommodation and attractions hit - but the wider community as well.

"That's the first line, when the tourist don't come, accommodation loses income," he said.

'Very lean'

"But that income gets spent in two ways in the community. In Barmouth a guesthouse closes down during winter and that money gets spent at the DIY store for renewing. That's not happening this year because the money hasn't been coming in.

"So those builders, plasterers and plumbers are going to find this winter is very lean for them.

"But also one of our tourism agencies found that whatever tourists spend on accommodation they spend in the community. So if you spent £700 on a cottage, you will likely spend the same in local shops, restaurants, even in the local post office."

A spokesman from the Welsh Government said First Minister Mark Drakeford had been clear he wanted "regular and reliable" meetings with the other governments.

He added: "Decisions about the response to the pandemic in Wales are made in Wales."

The UK government said: "We have helped the tourism industry through a financial package of measures - of which many Welsh businesses are benefiting from - and continue to support the tourism sector through these very challenging times."

Whether or not the lockdown in England will finish on 2 December will have a knock-on effect on much of Wales' economy, especially those areas reliant on tourists from across Offa's Dyke.

What this industry really wants is some assurances so they can get off to a flying start in 2021.

Related Topics

More on this story

  • Lockdown: Dealing with two sets of rules on the Wales-England border