The Guernsey Tourism Partnership is lobbying States Deputies to support a struggling tourist industry, arguing that the Visitor Attraction Support Scheme isn’t comprehensive enough and that payroll co-funding support is being withdrawn too early.
The Policy and Resources Committee has announced that as of the 31 September the payroll co-funding scheme will be closed, citing an increase in travel activity.
However, a gap was identified in the tourist industry, with many businesses in this sector receiving minimal income since the start of the pandemic; P&R introduced both the Visitor Attraction Support Scheme and the Visitator Accommodation Support Scheme to fill this gap.
Both these additional financial schemes will remain in place until March 2022 and will fund up to 80% of a company’s overheads, however the GTP argues it isn’t enough and Guernsey could see the collapse of numerous businesses over the Winter period.
Pictured: These businesses are eligible for alternative visitor support as of the 1 April this year.
The partnership was launched to collate voices from all corners of Guernsey tourist industry, from taxi drivers to retail. It launched a survey earlier this year to better understand the impact of the States removal of payroll support and the usefulness of the ‘Visitor’ schemes.
The results painted a dire picture of a struggling industry, with many businesses falling through the cracks and not receiving the support they need.
The GTP has more than 70 members, 80% of who are now trading between 50% and 100% lower than pre-covid levels. Without cruise ships and the European markets the GTP said Guernsey’s border relaxation has made very little difference to many in the industry.
More than 40% of its membership are trading at less than 20% of their usual levels.
In a letter written to all Deputies, the Chair of the Guernsey Tourism Partnership said a worrying trend has been developing.
“Though grateful for any support, this payroll support scheme alone has been insufficient,” said Anthony Ford Parker.
“The scheme was at no time in line with packages offered in the UK, Jersey or the Isle of Man. As the support was calculated by reference to the month’s trading (as opposed to the year’s trading), many businesses found themselves without any support over the winter.
“The seeming acceptance that businesses will have to close is disturbing and shows a significant departure from previous policy,” he said.
Pictured: The GTP was formed four months ago and now publishes regular newsletters to its members.
Express spoke to the GTP’s Treasurer, Hannah Beacom, who said the co-funding scheme will leave many of its membership without any support at all.
“It [Visitor Attraction Scheme] is strictly only for attractions, so bricks and mortar sites that are very much attraction based. A large number [of our membership] said they had been turned down for funding from the start, retailers in particular have suffered because they didn’t quite fit into any category.
“Retailers who benefit hugely from the tourist sector were told by government that they weren’t tourist businesses,” she said.
“Taxi companies have been told not to apply, which is strange to us because some of them may have very high fixed costs: premises, parking, finance costs on their vehicles.”
She said that the Treasurer has been quite lenient with the rules, allowing some of their membership to claim when they perhaps don’t fit exactly within the parameters initially laid out.
“It’s difficult to see who it will apply to or not apply to, but we’re encouraging our members now to make applications if they don’t think they’ll be able to trade through the winter.”
Pictured: 128 cruise liners are booked in to come to Guernsey next year.
The winter season is fast approaching and Ms Beacom said many businesses might not make it through to the other side without immediate changes from the government.
“If we were having a normal year, we would see our busiest period between May and September, we would see reasonable income in March, April and October, but then in those winter months we would be nearly solely dependent on local business.
“You would look to trade through the summer to have reserves for the winter, and of course, none of the members have had summer trading for two years,” she said.
"As the tourism sector we all depend on each other, if the offering in Guernsey is not complete our agents will not be able to sell holidays here,” said Ms Beacom.
Pictured: “Where necessary we are continuing to provide proportionate support, but as with any support scheme, we will keep this under review to make sure that support is only provided where it is needed,” said Treasury Lead, Deputy Mark Helyar, of the ‘Visitor’ schemes when they were launched.
The GTP are asking for both financial help and a strong indication of support for local business by outlining a plan for opening our borders.
Furthermore, Mr Parker is urging Deputies to lobby P&R on the GTP’s behalf to:
a) clearly expand the ‘Visitor’ schemes to incorporate other businesses that depend on tourism
b) negotiate with high street lenders to maintain interest only covid debt, and
c) defer TRP and long repayment terms for those in arrears with Revenue Services
“We are now extremely concerned that the island’s offering will be limited if tourism businesses fail over winter,” said Mr Parker.
“Without a strong message from the Government that they will be relaxing border controls, welcoming cruise liners and European business back, other businesses will be considering their future.
"Guernsey is facing tough competition for visitors, particularly from Jersey. Losing businesses that are crucial to the local offering to visitors would deal a massive blow to the future of tourism as a whole.”
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