Caerphilly County Borough preparing for return of tourism
Business, News | Gareth Axenderrie | Published: 15:54, Monday June 29th, 2020.
Last updated: 09:25, Tuesday June 30th, 2020
Businesses across Caerphilly County Borough are preparing for the return of tourism to the area, after Welsh Government announced that the sector will be given the opportunity to make the most of the remainder of the summer.
Measures like lifting the five-mile travel guidance and allowing outdoor attractions to reopen have been announced, alongside bookings for self-contained accommodation from July 13.
Tourism was worth around £134 million to the county in 2019, with 1.8 million visitors supporting 1,626 full time jobs in the area.
With attractions and non-essential businesses closed for most of the tourism season so far, that income has been virtually non-existent in 2020.
Despite signals that the sector will now be able to make the most of the remainder of the tourist season, a number of concerns remain.
As many as 25% of small businesses in Caerphilly missed out on the initial round of support, including many accommodation providers.
Under The Oak Glamping, in Bedwas, was one of the businesses that was ineligible for funding as it doesn’t meet the threshold to pay VAT and wasn’t paying business rates at the time.
It also doesn’t qualify for Welsh Government’s new start-up funding as it was established before April 1, 2019.
Lydia Watts, who owns the business, told Caerphilly Observer: “Lockdown couldn’t have come at a worse time for us as we were due to reopen on April 3.
“We were fully booked for Easter and already had a number of bookings for May and June, so it hit us hard.
“We opened in 2018, so this was only our third season. We invested heavily after a good year last year, and we renovated a new railway carriage with a big chunk of our profits.
“That investment meant that we haven’t had a great deal of money to help us through this period without income.
“We are now fully booked for July and August, which does show how keen people are to return to the Caerphilly area.
“We are frustrated we slipped through the net for government funding and the Welsh Government must announce something to mop up those who haven’t received anything up until now, or many won’t survive the winter.”
There are also concerns that some of the county’s attractions, such as Caerphilly Castle and Llancaiach Fawr, won’t reopen soon enough to attract visitors to the area.
When asked when attractions will open, First Minister Mark Drakeford confirmed that outdoor attractions will reopen in the first phase of opening in July, but no date has been set for indoor attractions.
That means Caerphilly County Borough Council doesn’t currently know when they’ll be able to reopen tourist sites such as the Winding House Museum in New Tredegar and Cwmcarn Forest Drive Visitor Centre.
Cllr Lisa Phipps, the council’s cabinet member for homes, places and tourism, said: “The reopening of venues will only be done in line with Welsh Government guidance and with stringent safety measures put in place to ensure the safety of staff and visitors.”
Businesses who usually rely on footfall from visitors to these attractions during the tourist season fear they will not make enough money to see them through the winter months.
Several businesses have voiced concerns that while they may be able to reopen for the remainder of the summer, they face the real risk of not reopening next year.
Hefin David, MS for Caerphilly, said the cautious approach is the correct one however, adding: “Any travel must be accompanied by appropriate social distancing. This gradual and cautious approach to the lifting of restrictions, guided by clinical evidence, is absolutely the right way to approach lifting the restrictions that we have all been living under.
“The worst thing for the tourism sector would be a second wave of the infection that sets us back to square one. By taking things step by step, the tourism sector will benefit over the coming months.”
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