Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen has outlined a £1m package of support for front-line hospitality and tourism businesses across the region, including a fund to help them reopen in time for summer.
Local hospitality businesses such as pubs, restaurants, museums, venues and hotels have been seriously impacted by the coronavirus outbreak, with most of those businesses unable to open or working under severe restrictions over the past few months.
These businesses are worth almost £1billion to the local economy however 98% of them said they required funding support to survive, compared with 83% across all sectors.
The £250,000 Welcome Back Fund is the first phase of this year-long programme of support, which will help independent small and medium-sized visitor-facing businesses to reopen, with grants of up to £1,500.
These grants will help businesses to make changes to the way they work to accommodate customers after the lockdown, including funding safety measures such as screens and adding floor markings and sanitisation points at their premises. The fund will also help businesses promote their reopening and help to ensure they meet the “We’re Good To Go” national tourism industry standards unveiled by Visit Britain.
The move comes just days after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that from 4 July, all but a small number of leisure, tourism and hospitality businesses can reopen as further lockdown restrictions are lifted.
Mayor Houchen said: “In less than two weeks our pubs, restaurants, venues and hotels will be open again and, unless we all get behind them, workers and businesses face an uncertain future. That’s why I’ve made them a priority in my plan for the economic recovery of Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool, and backed them with the Welcome Back Fund.
“Many of the small independent businesses that bring so much joy to local people and bring in tourists have been able to take advantage of Government support to see them through the last few months, however this alone won’t help them to grow and create jobs in the face of so many new challenges.
“Over the past couple of years we’ve made great strides in attracting big-ticket events to our region and that is something to be hugely proud of. Of course, events like the postponed Killers and Tom Jones gigs are still going ahead next year, along with Rugby League World Cup 2021 so we have a lot to look forward to, and to offer local people, day visitors and tourists.”
Cllr Shane Moore, leader of Hartlepool Council and cabinet member for Culture and Tourism at Tees Valley Combined Authority, said: “Small local businesses are the backbone of our economy in Hartlepool and the wider Tees Valley area, and the pubs, cafes and restaurants we all love have only got a few days to get ready to welcome back their customers, and to do so safely, that’s why I’m backing these measures to help firms in the visitor and creative economies. Jobs are at stake and we’re taking action to protect them.”
The rest of the £1m investment will be used to bring more visitors to Tees Valley, and to help firms in the tourism, leisure and culture industries to cater for them and adapt to the new realities of doing business.
Measures to support them in the Mayor’s twelve-month plan include a high-profile campaign to show that the region has reopened for visitors, as well as further financial support and training.
Mayor Houchen is also expected to announce plans to make the region a top UK destination for cycling and walking holidays.
The support package is being designed by Enjoy Tees Valley, our region’s destination marketing organisation.
Click here to register an interest in applying.