In reality, there are no words that can express the dilemma that we are all in. Our sympathy is first and foremost with all those who are having to deal with the virus, either because they have been directly touched by it in some way or they are dealing with it on the front line.
At a time of crisis, it has been heartening to see people and organisations within the sector coming together and working for the common good. Such an approach will be necessary in the time ahead to build firmer foundations and to secure market opportunities within the recovery period.
For tourism it is difficult at this moment to find clarity and solid ground, but what we do know for sure is tourism has changed. Not just for Wales, but for all countries across the world. Problems and challenges that we are grappling with are being shared globally – and within such a short timeframe these often life changing problems have not been easy to solve.
The last week has witnessed unprecedented change. Without doubt, tourism in the future will need to reset and move forward in a very different way. But move forward in a way that will present both challenges and, more importantly, opportunities.
The support and recognition given to our industry by Central Government has exceeded expectations and we must be grateful for financial measures put in place. At a time when many businesses face closure, with significant loss of jobs, Government intervention – if it is delivered effectively and efficiently – will, we hope, ensure survival for many, although we recognise not all. Whilst there is still much to do to protect businesses, we must build on the lifeline given.
Needless to say, the tourism industry in Wales is in shock. The timing of the crisis at the beginning of the season, after investment has been made during the winter, compounding cash flow pressures, could not have been worse. No customers equals no income, equals possible business closure.
The WTA and our partners have been engaged in putting the case before Government for support and we recognise the financial support packages for tourism businesses from the UK and Welsh Governments at this unprecedented time.
We have been informed of small business grants; interest free loans; 80% coverage of wages for employees and direct financial assistance for the self-employed which, we hope, will save some businesses and around one million jobs in tourism and hospitality across the UK. However, we also recognise that this may not be enough for many to weather the storm.
Finally, rest assured the WTA has been working hard on behalf of businesses to represent tourism interests, to highlight current problems. Whilst lobbying has been successful, more support is needed to safeguard our industry, particularly those who face immediate cash flow crises.
Whilst we recognise the limitations of the system, it is a high priority for businesses to be able to access monies from support packages quickly. The challenge is going to be to help businesses survive and also to be ready and prepared for the recovery after the virus abates.