Sir David Amess was on the call list to speak in the general debate on the aviation, travel and tourism industries on Thursday 10 June. However, unfortunately there was not enough time for Sir David to speak. Below is the speech Sir David intended to give as he called for more financial support for the many restaurants, pubs and hotels in Southend.
A major aspect of the tourism industry is that it is seasonal, and Southend is a coastal town that sees the local economy thriving in the summer. Despite the recent warm weather and the planned easing of restrictions, many businesses in the tourism and hospitality industries will continue to suffer. The Government has undoubtedly provided generous financial support packages, but many limited company directors and businesses in my constituency have been left to fend for themselves. I urge the Government to implement a robust recovery strategy for the travel and tourism industry as we return to some sort of normality.
I have spoken to concerned business owners in my constituency who rely on tourists to eat at their restaurants, drink at their pubs or stay at their hotels. Grants were welcome by some of my constituents, but they didn’t cover the fixed costs of operating a small business and they don’t have the reserves to survive much longer. Many of them are running at a loss. The Government should provide further support in the form of extending the reduced rate of VAT and the business rates relief.
It is not just the hospitality industry that relies on the influx of tourists, however; it is also the leisure and entertainment industries. Being a popular seaside town, Southend would normally attract plenty of tourists to our wonderful summer festivals and theatres for example. Southend Carnival has been cancelled this year and the Leigh Regatta, the Leigh Folk Festival and the Village Green festival have all either been postponed or cannot confirm a date. These festivals bring in wonderful economic opportunities for local businesses who rely on the summer trade, and they need support.
When Coronavirus comes to an end and restrictions are fully lifted, the Government must provide support to local authorities to cope with the influx of people to tourist hotspots such as Southend.
As Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Qatar, I have seen how helpful Qatar Airways has been to our country during the pandemic by transporting over 100,000 people safely back to the United Kingdom. Qatar Airways is heavily suffering with Qatar being on the red list despite them having relatively few Coronavirus cases compared to other countries and a high proportion of their population vaccinated.
I have mentioned just a few of the endless reasons why Southend should become a city next year. We are a cultural hub with a plethora of charming local, boutique shops and brilliant schools. Southend attracts many visitors each year to our beaches, our theatres and the world-famous Southend Pier. Tourism is a major part of our diverse economy in Southend and whilst it will play a part in gaining us city status, the individuals and businesses that comprise the industry need urgent Governmental support to recover from the pandemic.