TOURISM plays a major role in Dorset’s economy, valued at around £1billion per year and supporting almost 40,000 jobs.
Results from two important surveys highlight that recovery from COVID-19 requires not just financial support, but a need for advice and guidance on how to operate safely.
These surveys have recently been issued to businesses across the county by the Visit Dorset team and Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
Dorset Council’s survey of local tourism and hospitality sector businesses on how COVID-19 is impacting them received more than 1,000 responses. The council has submitted this information to the government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport.
Dorset LEP’s business impact survey had received more than 300 responses as of May 7, with over half of responses from the tourism and hospitality sector.
The council’s immediate priority has been signposting local businesses to relevant support and financial aid from itself, central government and various partner agencies. It says it is committed to continuing this work with the aim of reaching every single business or self-employed person in Dorset.
Finn Morgan, Business Engagement Manager at Dorset LEP said: “Tourism, hospitality and retail businesses across the county are experiencing a major impact on business operations, with a vast majority now experiencing cash flow issues.
“Many are accessing government financial support and a small number able to operate by making changes to access requirements, or diversifying their products, but what we’re hearing now is a need for longer term guidance and information to aid business recovery.”
Dorset Local LEP board member, and Dorset Tourism Association chairman, Richard Smith, added: “It’s clear from the evidence being collected across the county that Dorset’s tourism businesses need to find way to reopen as soon as possible. If tourism is to remain restricted, the sector will need additional support to protect jobs, especially over the winter.
“We are drawing up guidance about how we can do so as safely as possible. A key focus will be to create an environment where businesses unsure about their future, start to feel increased confidence, and we would value input from the Government, as soon as possible, about what the national standards for safe working will be.”
Cllr Gary Suttle, Dorset Council’s portfolio holder for Economic Growth and Skills, and member of the Dorset LEP board, said: “We are reviewing the ever-evolving direction from central government and are working on how the ease of lockdown will effect Dorset’s business community. We are working closely with partner agencies and groups to ensure our support has a consistent message.
“We are also working hard on how we best support local business through what will be a challenging recovery period and understanding the longer-term impact on Dorset’s economy. The council is committed to evolving our strategy, frequently engaging with local businesses and ensuring that local communities and businesses are at the heart of our decision making.
“The recently announced new discretionary scheme will benefit many more businesses which have so far not been eligible for any of the existing packages of support.”
A further Visit Dorset survey will be sent out later this week and the council is encouraging businesses to respond and provide feedback again. This will help us build a picture of the evolving economic situation in Dorset.
Dorset LEP’s COVID-19 Business Impact Survey remains open for businesses, charities and the self-employed to share the impact on their operations here.