New Forest firms face ‘cliff edge’ with estimated £200m lost in visitor economy

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new forest economy
Cancelled events such as the Milford Music and Art Festival has cost local businesses

TOURISM chiefs in the New Forest welcomed a government help package but warned the local visitor economy has lost out on up to £200m and some firms are still not getting help.

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Chancellor Rishi Sunak last week outlined a package of measures to help traders retain and hire staff, including VAT rate reductions, a job retention bonus and a £2bn kickstart scheme.

There was also what the government claimed was a “landmark” policy to provide a 50% reduction for sit-down meals in participating cafes, restaurants and pubs across the UK from Monday to Wednesday every week throughout August.

But in his monthly update, New Forest Business Partnership chair Matthew Lawson said some member firms “face a cliff edge as existing support winds down”.

While the new measures will protect jobs, help younger workers and encourage spending on hospitality, Mr Lawson warned: “It is likely that the scale of the stimulus to help the UK economy to restart, rebuild and renew will need to be greater still over the coming months.

Matthew Lawson

“Many businesses are concerned about how they will survive in the event of a local lockdown here in the New Forest.”

Anthony Climpson, chief executive of tourism group Go New Forest, said since businesses had been allowed to reopen at the start of July it had been a “steady rather than spectacular” restart.

“The government’s support has been very helpful to most tourism businesses but some have missed out altogether,” he added.

“We estimate the New Forest’s visitor economy has already lost £200m in revenue since lockdown and with reopening capacity severely restricted by social distancing this figure will grow.

“It’s therefore critical further government support is made available to help the industry through what is likely to be an extremely barren autumn and winter.”

To help locally New Forest District Council’s cabinet member for finance, Cllr Jeremy Heron, has agreed a fast-track discretionary grant funding scheme for New Forest bed and breakfasts.

Meanwhile, firms in Christchurch will be assisted by a new We Are Tourism campaign launched BCP Council.

Its cabinet member holder for tourism, Cllr Lewis Allison, said: “This campaign seeks to remind residents and visitors alike of what we, as a destination, have to offer which will always aim to put the safety of our patrons first. We Are Tourism, and we are ready.”

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