Tourism is the very raison d’être of our part of North Wales. Towns such as Colwyn Bay and Llandudno grew up in Victorian times to serve the holiday needs of the increasingly affluent industrial areas of North West England and the Midlands.
After a decline that started in the 1960s, caused by low-cost continental travel, the sector has experienced a resurgence, catering for the weekend and conference trade. Similarly, there has been a boom in holiday parks, which constitute the lifeblood of Kinmel Bay, Towyn and many other local communities.
Tourism supports over 43,000 jobs in North Wales. It is a crucially important part of our economy. Sadly, it has been badly affected by the COVID-19 outbreak and the consequent trading restrictions.
North Wales hospitality businesses have been closed since the end of March. It was feared that the restrictions would continue for several more months, but, last week, both the Westminster and Welsh Governments announced that they were to be relaxed. Outdoor attractions such as the Welsh Mountain Zoo are due to reopen on 6 July. Some forms of holiday accommodation will reopen a week later. It’s a good start, and means that tourism will be able to earn at least some revenue in what is left of this holiday season.
However, that still leaves pubs and restaurants. At some stage, no doubt, they will be also be allowed to open. However, whether they in fact do so depends greatly on whether the two-metre rule is relaxed. I have spoken to several local pub and restaurant operators who have told me that if they are required to separate all their customers by two metres, it will not be financially worth their while to reopen. One metre, however, would mean that they could operate on about 75 percent of normal earnings.
The two-metre rule therefore needs urgently to be reassessed by policy makers. If they conclude that it can be safely relaxed, their decision will be welcomed by North Wales hospitality businesses. If they decide it cannot, however, it will be a bleak outlook for our most important local industry.