The chairman of an organisation that represents more than 600 tourism and hospitality businesses across Mid Wales has praised members for taking the responsible decision to close down to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.
Rowland Rees-Evans, who leads MWT Cymru and is a director of the family-owned Penrhos holiday, golf and leisure park at Llanrhystyd, near Aberystwyth, says the shutdown is the correct decision but warns it will cause hardship to many businesses.
Having called on the Welsh Government for a specific cash package for the tourism and hospitality industry last week, MWT Cymru has welcomed the announcement by Economy Minister Ken Skates of £1.4 billion support for businesses and employees.
Mr Rees-Evans stresses the key importance of the industry to the Welsh economy, as it employs more than 100,000 people. It is crucial that tourism and hospitality businesses are supported so that they are in a position to welcome visitors following the Coronavirus crisis, he says.
Whilst holiday home owners and potential visitors were currently being told by the UK and Welsh Governments to stay at home and not travel to Mid Wales to prevent the spread of the virus, he emphasises that tourists will be welcomed with open arms when the crisis has passed.
“It’s an impossible situation – the perfect storm,” said Mr Rees-Evans. “We have all got a responsibility, regardless of our businesses, to minimise the risk. By taking the responsible decision to close down, we will hopefully reduce the impact of the virus on the NHS over the next few weeks.
“It has been a difficult decision for many businesses, but what is the alternative? What people must remember is that we are talking livelihoods and jobs.
“The responsibility to stop the spread of the disease does not fall on the businesses alone; it’s down to the public as well. They must obey Government guidance on unnecessary travel and social distancing.
“In the case of our business, we have found that customers are very responsible and understanding, and they are all waiting for the big party when we eventually emerge from the crisis.”
Thankfully, most businesses will be able to receive Government support payments to cover some of their losses, he adds. The industry urgently needs to hear from the Welsh Government about how to access this support, as their income will be zero following shutdown.
“The key is to retain our staff throughout the crisis, so that businesses are in a position to resume when the virus has cleared,” said Mr Rees-Evans. “We must show loyalty to our staff because without them we haven’t got a business.
“There are some small businesses that are in a desperate situation and need support quickly. Our industry also relies on many self-employed ancillary workers and I hope the Government will announce support for them soon.
“Whatever the support packages cost the Government it will pale into insignificance if all our businesses go bust. I would advise our members to talk to their banks and leasing companies because they are all listening and wanting to help.
“Be in no doubt, this crisis will end and we all look forward to that day.”
MWT Cymru’s staff, who are in close contact with the Welsh Government and its tourism arm, Visit Wales, are busy handling calls from worried businesses across Powys, Ceredigion and South Gwynedd.
The company is also gathering intelligence from Mid Wales businesses to feed back to the Bank of England and UK policymakers.
As the scale of Coronavirus and its impact on the industry comes into sharper focus, MWT Cymru’s chief executive Val Hawkins and her team remain committed to supporting its members and their employees.