Charlotte Goy, Chief Executive of Visit Lincoln and member of the Greater Lincolnshire LEP Visitor Economy Board, provides insight on the sector across Greater Lincolnshire through Covid-19 and beyond.
It is no surprise that one of the sectors particularly hard hit by the pandemic has been our tourism, hospitality, retail and leisure economies. In response, the Greater Lincolnshire LEP and Business Lincolnshire in collaboration with Visit Lincoln DMO have developed a raft of support to assist business owners through this difficult time.
Greater Lincolnshire boasts high-quality and varied built and natural assets across city, coast and countryside, and is promoted and supported in large by small businesses and organisations - the survival and growth of which remain a very high priority for the LEP.
The visitor economy's pre-Covid value was estimated to be over £2.39bn and supported at least 30,000 full time jobs, and despite the current challenges, this rich and diverse sector continues to offer long-term growth potential.
But the pandemic has had a devastating impact on these industries. The visitor economy is built primarily around social experiences and the movement of people, and so restrictions on both movement and mandatory closure are hurting the tourism, hospitality and leisure businesses far greater than any other sector. To aid recovery, we have been working on the front line of the industry, alongside a wide range of partners, and these collaborative teams have been at the heart of influencing and building a range of initiatives which are offering critical support to businesses throughout lockdown and into reopening.
One of the latest schemes is the Peer to Peer Support Programme funded by Business Lincolnshire and led by active learning specialists. Business Lincolnshire and Visit Lincoln created two cohort groups enabling business owners and leaders to come together and work through common challenges including finance, HR, sales and marketing, all delivered by expert facilitators.
Work is also taking place across Greater Lincolnshire to ensure we are ready to respond to the DCMS Tourism Recovery Plan, which will be released soon. This will set out both short-term reopening and recovery plans, while also outlining what is needed in the longer term.
This, together with the Greater Lincolnshire LEP's economic recovery plans, should refresh strands of the Tourism Sector Deal (announced pre-covid in 2019) to ensure that future investment addresses the Covid landscape we now find ourselves in; and we stand braced to show Government and industry leaders that Greater Lincolnshire has the ability to boost productivity, address seasonality, develop the skills of the UK workforce, and to support destinations to enhance their visitor offer as part of a revised Sector Deal.
While no timescale has yet been given, we are calling on Government to progress at pace. It is absolutely critical that the visitor economy gets the right short-term support and long-term investment to rebuild itself and become more resilient.
Additionally, the Coastal Communities Fund, the Town Deals, Future High Streets Fund, the work at Visit Lincoln, and Team Lincolnshire’s Ambassador Programme are all highlighted in this special Tourism & Hospitality edition; other interventions being developed, which include a refresh of the Pub Development Programme from last June, further support ambitions for a successful restart of the sector this year.
Strong partnerships will be key to recovery and the Lincolnshire Co-op has made the decision to collaborate with Visit Lincoln to market the Lincoln Cornhill Quarter project to encourage people back into the city once restrictions are lifted. The brands and independent businesses this has brought to the city will not only boost the night time economy, but are also propelling the retail and hospitality offer. The regeneration of The Cornhill Quarter is testament to how a town or city can work together with the sector to future proof its visitor economy and retail offer.
While we do not take the size of the post pandemic challenge lightly, we know that Greater Lincolnshire holds a huge and rich potential for future business opportunities, including our unique aviation heritage, artisan food and drink offer, connected cycling experiences and the Mayflower Pilgrims stories. It is likely that we will start to see larger family groups travelling together and a demand for quality experiences that are outdoor, green and sustainable, and Visit Lincoln is advising businesses to align their customer experience and product to meet some of these trends. When restrictions lift, it is also predicted that virtual experiences will remain popular, as well as the relatively new concept of ‘armchair travel’. We are therefore also encouraging businesses to think about what extra revenue could be generated by selling online and virtual experiences even after the PM's recovery roadmap reopens the industry.
Together with the successful projects, programmes and promotions already having an impact, and by continuing to build on our natural and built assets - Lincoln Castle and Cathedral, the Lincolnshire Wolds, cultural events and festivals, the vibrant coastal resorts of Cleethorpes, Mablethorpe and Skegness, the Humber wetlands, Rutland Water - and collaborating, lobbying and strongly supporting these important, talented and dedicated people and their businesses, we can continue to create an incredible Greater Lincolnshire tourism brand, attract investment, and promote our vibrant hospitality, tourism, retail and leisure assets and sectors.