Minister meets tourism sector

L-R: Nick Reynolds (Paradise Park), George Eustice MP, Nigel Huddleston MP, Jonathan Bray

Representatives from Cornwall’s top tourist attractions met with the Minister for Tourism, Nigel Huddleston MP, during his visit to Cornwall last week, giving them a platform to talk about the county’s response to coronavirus and how our visitor attraction industry has responded.

The Minister for Sports, Tourism and Heritage visited the Eden Project, Bodmin Jail and Paradise Park during a week in which he held meetings with business across Cornwall – including hotels, accommodation providers, hospitality businesses and visitor attractions.

During a series of visits, led by Visit Cornwall chief executive, Malcolm Bell, the Minister heard about ways in which our visitor economy has been affected by the pandemic, and listened to calls for further support.

On Friday morning (Sep 18), Huddleston was at Paradise Park to meet with Jonathan Bray, chair of the board of directors of Cornwall Association of Tourist Attractions – along with Bell, George Eustice MP and Nick Reynolds, owner of the Hayle wildlife sanctuary.

Bray said: “Meeting the Minister provides a valuable platform for Cornwall Association of Tourist Attractions to highlight the needs of our industry. It gave us a chance to talk about what is needed and to raise this at a national level.

“We are incredibly proud of the visitor attractions we work with – they have become stronger together and bonded as a business community, working very hard to ensure their survival in the face of a global pandemic.

“There are many positive stories for our industry, showing how we have been able to pivot and adapt in these unusual times – but this doesn’t negate the fact that for many of our Cornish tourism businesses, these are very tough times and the winter is going to present further financial challenges.”

Key discussion points during the meeting included:

  • While many visitor attractions have risen to the challenge of reopening safely during a global pandemic, many will be unable to recoup the losses incurred by the lockdown at the beginning of their peak season
  • Cornish visitor attractions are facing a ‘three winter scenario’ in terms of income – three periods of significant loss back to back, with many of the smaller Cornish visitor attractions taking on personal debt to survive
  • The funding support for cultural and heritage organisations and charities has been welcomed by many of our members, but it has highlighted a funding gap for smaller attractions who do not fit into these categories
  • The negative effect that any short lockdown over the October half term would have on trade, at a point when many businesses who survive on the visitor economy need this revenue to see them through the winter
  • Many visitor attractions are already making redundancies or undergoing restructuring programmes – this is likely to increase further when the furlough scheme comes to an end in October.

Nick Reynolds, owner of Paradise Park – along with his sister, Alison Hales, who co-owns the wildlife sanctuary – also discussed the combined plight of wildlife organisations, who are less able to make staff cuts as they have animals that need to be cared for year round.

Malcolm Bell, CEO of Visit Cornwall, has been lobbying hard to have children excluded from the Rule of Six when COVID-19 control methods are next reviewed. This would allow families to have multigenerational breaks, which are particularly popular in Cornwall on the shoulder months of the season.

Cornwall Association of Tourist Attractions, alongside Visit Cornwall and Cornwall Chamber of Commerce, says it will continue to lend its voice to lobbying calls for continued financial support for the tourism industry.