Questions to the First Minister (20/06/24): The Hospitality Sector

Janet Finch-Saunders MS, Member for Aberconwy: Will the First Minister make a statement on support for the hospitality sector in Wales in light of COVID-19? 

First Minister: I thank the Member for that question. The package of support for the hospitality sector in Wales is the most generous in the United Kingdom. Thousands of businesses have benefited from 100 per cent small business rate relief and the Welsh Government's economic resilience fund. In total, over £330 million has been provided to assist the sector during the pandemic. 

Janet Finch-Saunders MS, Member for Aberconwy: Thank you. North Wales tourism businesses and organisations have said that, if tourism was allowed to open today, 10,500 tourism sector jobs could be lost in north Wales, and they cite your Government and you to be destroying this vital industry. To refute those claims, what support will you make available to businesses that cannot open on 13 July? Self-contained accommodation businesses and ensuite hotels desperately need a vision, with guidance on how to safely prepare. Will you provide this? Will you clarify exactly what you mean by self-contained accommodation, working with their local communities? Will you clearly state whether campsites with shared facilities can prepare to open if they close these? First Minister, your leadership on this issue has never been under any such scrutiny, and, I have to say, with much criticism. Diolch.

First Minister: Well, I thank the Member for those questions. Of course the actions of Government are under scrutiny—so they should be. That's why we have answered questions on the floor of the Senedd every single week during this pandemic and will continue to do so.

As far as the self-contained sector within the tourism industry is concerned, of course we work with the sector to provide guidance and to answer their questions. It's guidance that is provided with the sector itself. We've been working with UKHospitality Cymru and the Wales Tourism Alliance to make sure that their best practice guidance for working safely in the visitor economy is there for everybody in preparation for the lifting of restrictions. Visit Wales has hosted three consultation events with over 100 representatives from the four tourism forums across Wales, as well as with industry representative bodies. The purpose of giving people notice that they should prepare is to make sure that, when questions arise, there is time to resolve those questions with the sector. And I know the sector is very much looking forward to being able to reopen and to do it in a way that is safe, in a way that safeguards the reputation of the sector, and when the sector can demonstrate that it has been able to do that successfully, then we will want to allow it to do more.

But there's a real reputational issue here for the sector, and to rush at it in the way that the Member suggests, without any proper preparation to open campsites with shared facilities, that will not be happening—let me assure her of that—in the first wave, because we know that coronavirus thrives in shared facilities. Why would we put the reputation of this really important industry in Wales at risk by allowing unsafe practices to take place? We won't do that. We will proceed in the way that we have set out: carefully, step-by-step, demonstrating success, allowing more to happen when that success has been demonstrated, in a way that will safeguard the long-term reputation of this vitally important industry in Wales.