As we witness the increasing, positive impact of the vaccination programme, with over 20 million now inoculated in the UK, it is important to consider how people’s livelihoods will continue to be secured after we emerge from lockdown.
In North Wales, tourism is the mainstay of our local economy. It is worth a remarkable £3.6 billion per annum, supports over 46,500 full-time equivalent jobs, and brings in 29 million visitors to our beautiful part of the world.
The 2020 season was severely disrupted, with a drop in tourism income of an estimated £2.17 billion.
It is therefore crucial that as much clarity as possible should now be provided to hospitality business operators as to when and how they may recommence operations in 2021.
In England, the Government has set out a clear, though cautious, roadmap for exiting lockdown.
Indeed, one senior representative of the North Wales tourism sector told me that the Prime Minister‘s statement on reopening made in Parliament last week amounted to “light at the end of a very dark tunnel”.
If the virus-suppression programme proceeds as we all hope, hospitality should reopen in England by mid-May.
Sadly however, no clarity of the sort given by the Westminster Government has been provided in Wales; and that is a huge concern to North Wales tourism business operators.
It is likely that more UK citizens will be taking their holidays domestically this year, as a consequence of the disruption to air travel.
Families are making their holiday bookings now; but if there is no clarity as to when Wales will be open for business again, then they will book their holidays in Cornwall, or the Lake District, or some other part of the country where there is sufficient clarity to give them the confidence to do so.
It is therefore essential for the Welsh and Westminster Governments to work closely together on a coordinated strategy for the reopening of the entire UK hospitality sector.
If that is not done, then I fear there will be another bleak holiday season in North Wales.
And that is something nobody wants to see.