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Covid: 'Crucial' tourism in Wales reopens by Easter

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It is “crucial” tourism is allowed to reopen by Easter after a “catastrophic” year, an industry insider has said.

North Wales Tourism chief executive Jim Jones said firms had spent “extremely heavily” to make them Covid-secure.

He warned of job losses in an industry that employed 43,000 people in north Wales.

The Welsh Government said it was “committed to doing all we can to protect businesses during this very challenging time”.

Many businesses had already “gone under,” and others were “teetering on the edge of failure,” Mr Jones said.

“If we don’t get the opportunity to open by Easter it means a lot more loss of jobs, loss of business and also the economy is going to be so hard hit it’s going to take a long, long time to recover.

“So, it’s crucial we get the opportunity to open this Easter.”

Businesses “totally” understood the need for safety, and for Covid-19 case numbers to drop, but the “uncertainty, and not knowing, is adding to the anxiety that our businesses are suffering,” Mr Jones said.

He said the industry was down £2.17bn on revenues of £3.6bn in 2019.

He called on the Welsh Government to support the industry with measures including business funds and rates relief.

“We’re not seeing any sign of any road map to recovery,” said Mr Jones.

“We’re still waiting to see what that entails so I think it’s really, really important that the Welsh Government starts to share with us what their plans are for recovery into 2021.”

Businesses outside of tourism are also calling for an Easter start-up.

Arete Outdoor Learning Centre, in Llanrug, Gwynedd, provides residential courses for school children across the UK.

It said if schools were open, it should be able to as well.

Centre director Gareth Davies said: “For the sector, we’ve lost 6,000 jobs already. Thirty centres have shut since the start of the pandemic and there’s 20 more under serious threat across the UK.

“The sector’s been decimated and there’s not going to be anything left for future generations without an Easter re-start, or alternatively sector-specific funding to help us survive, if the government don’t change their guidance.”

Arete Outdoor Learning Centre, in Llanrug, Gwynedd, provides residential courses for school children across the UK.

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He said 98% of the centre’s income was from residential stays.

“The maths is quite simple – no income for over a year by Easter means the bills can’t be paid. It’s not too complicated to see our problem.”

Mr Davies said providing outdoor learning opportunities for young people was crucial for their wellbeing at a time when many were struggling with their mental health.

He said: “We do seem to be a forgotten sector that hasn’t had the help that other sectors have had, and we’re just calling out for some assistance.”

The Welsh Government said: “Our package of support is the most generous in the UK and more than £1.7bn of Welsh Government financial assistance has reached businesses since March.”

It said money had already reached tourism, hospitality and leisure businesses from a £180m fund opened in January.

“Wales will remain in alert level four until infection rates are under control,” it added.

“We review the Wales-wide measure in place at least every three weeks.”