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Travel should be ‘front of the queue’ for business rates relief funds

The government is being urged by trade bodies to ensure a £1.5 billion Business Rates Relief Fund is urgently allocated to travel and events-dependent businesses.

The funding was originally announced in March and the legislation that will enable its release should finally complete its parliamentary stages in the House of Lords today (Wednesday, December 8).

Previous statements made by ministers have said the funds will be targeted towards businesses most impacted by Covid-19.

The Tourism Alliance umbrella body made up of trade bodies across the tourism sector says the sector should be “front of the queue” considering the prolonged and ongoing impact of the pandemic on international travel.

In a letter to housing, communities and levelling up minister Michael Gove, the Alliance says that the tourism sector has suffered a decline in revenue of more than 70% over the last two years.

Modelling undertaken by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) indicates that tourism revenue will take until at least the end of 2023 to recover due to ongoing restrictions on international travel.

The revenue slump has particularly hit online travel agencies, tour and coach operators, destination management companies, English language schools, and conference and event organisers, it said.

These businesses are also being significantly impacted by restrictions being imposed to prevent the spread of the new Omicron variant, which will further threaten their viability and delay their recovery.

The letter makes clear these businesses have been excluded from the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Business Rates Relief scheme, and says that receiving the funds could be important for their future viability.

The Alliance is calling on government to provide clear guidance to local authorities which recommends they prioritise businesses in these sectors.

It is also asking for support to cover business rates across the entire period since March 2020, and through to the end of the next financial year in March 2023.

The Alliance points out that continuing support into the next financial year, at very least at 50% levels, is required to match the commitments already given to retail companies.

If more funding is required to do this, the Alliance urges the chancellor Rishi Sunak to make that available as quickly as possible.

Abta public affairs director Luke Petherbridge said: “We’re nearing two years of travel being significantly curbed by the pandemic.

“We were the first sector to be affected by the virus, and as the latest developments have shown, we will be the last to recover.

“Throughout these difficult years financial support for the sector has been woeful – with no specific funding and companies often excluded from general support.

“The government has an opportunity here to make sure that money – which has already been found to support businesses – gets to travel businesses.”

Tourism Alliance director Kurt Jansen said: “This funding could make a huge difference to tourism businesses, many of whom have been overlooked for other grants and support, so it is vital that these businesses get this help.

“Ministers have previously said this money should be prioritised for the sectors who have been hit the hardest by the pandemic, as an industry that has suffered far more than most, travel should be a priority for this spending.”

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