Balance between health and economy is comeback key

Consumer confidence is crucial in the challenge to show the Tees region is open for business amid the ongoing pandemic, say local business leaders – with a balance to be struck between public health and the economy.

In the latest weekly Tees Business Leaders online Q&A, Tees Business co-editor Dave Allan spoke to Middlesbrough Council’s Richard Horniman, Tees Active’s Leon Jones and Phil Forster of Teesside International Airport.

Arguably our hardest hit sector, the Tees region’s leisure and travel industries have felt the aftershock of Covid more harshly than most – but with care, stringent safety measures and dedication, thev’ve re-opened for business, and our panel believe now it’s time for the region to show its support.

“We want to get the message across that we’re open for business,” says Richard Horniman, director of regeneration and culture for Middlesbrough Council.

“Yes, there’s a balance to strike between public health and getting the economy back up and running again, but if we didn’t open, the longer-term health impacts would be immeasurable.”

While the virus seems to be generally under control in the Tees region, local lockdowns elsewhere suggest there is still a need for caution, hence safety being high on the agenda across all our leisure services.

“We have to ensure people are comfortable, that they can see we are following guidelines, and that we are doing it safely,” continues Richard.

“If we don’t get the customer and consumer confidence then it’s not going to work. The messages have got to be clear and done in a way where people feel they are being looked after, that their health is being looked after and that we commit to doing everything we can to respond as the national situation changes.”

Tees Business Leaders Online Q&A

Teesside is open for business!That’s the message of this week’s Tees Business Online, as we’re joined by Phil Forster, commercial director at Teesside International Airport; Leon Jones, managing director of Tees Active; and Richard Horniman, director of regeneration and culture at Middlesbrough Council.Brought to you in association with Close Protection Security.

Posted by Tees Business on Tuesday, 11 August 2020

The positivity that things are on the up for Teesside’s leisure industry is emphasised by Phil Forster, commercial director of Teesside International Airport.

“I’m full of optimism, not only with what we’re achieving at the airport, but also in the wider Tees Valley region,” says Phil.

“I would honestly say that Teesside has already shown that we are open for business again. I’m always going to big the airport up at any chance I can get, but just this week we’ve announced that we’ve finally brought Heathrow Airport flights back to the Tees Valley, and this is in the same week that KML has restarted their flights with us.

“We have shown we are open for business by not stopping. The momentum may have slowed down but we continue to move forward. Life has to go on, we have to create more jobs, more opportunities.”

Encouraging clients back into the leisure industry is the catalyst for the re-growth of the sector, and that was always going to be a challenge. A Twitter poll recently undertaken by Tees Business showed a definite split between those who are comfortable going out and about in our area and those who are not, with very few undecided.

The challenge has come as no shock to Leon Jones, managing director of Tees Active, who manage some of the region’s best loved leisure activities including Billingham Forum, Tees Barrage Air Trail and Stockton’s Splash swimming baths.

“It’s certainly been a tough and frustrating time,” admits Leon.

“There are aspects of our business which have been able to open sooner than others, but in terms of business generally, we all really need to play our part so that everyone can go out and enjoy our bars and our leisure destinations to the full while staying safe.

“People will make up their minds to visit in their own good time, but it’s our job to let them know we have taken all the necessary safety steps for when they’re ready to come back.

“So the key message is: we’re open for business, we are ready when you are, we are here for you – we’ve missed you!”

• Tees Business Leaders was in association with Close Protection Security, who provide security to a range of blue-chip local clients including Teesside International Airport, Middlesbrough Football Club, AV Dawson, Rockliffe Hall, Cleveland Fire Brigade and Scott Bros.