'We can't carry on like this': The plea from tourism businesses for a spring reopening date

  • Video report by ITV Wales Work and Economy Correspondent, Carole Green

Tourism businesses are calling for more certainty over when lockdown restrictions will be eased and they can start trading fully again.

The Federation for Small Businesses (FSB) Wales said the First Minister must "outline a roadmap" for all businesses to reopen but also particularly take into account the tourism sector's need to start taking bookings.

The owner of an ice cream parlour in Conwy agreed that it was "imperative" that shops like hers are given a date so that they can plan ahead and make the most of holiday trade.

There are around 11,000 tourism businesses in Wales which bring in more than £6bn a year.

Welsh Government have previously said "cautious" talks are ongoing with the tourism and hospitality industries about reopening but the Health Minister said earlier this week that it would not be helpful at the moment to give a set timeline of dates.

Welsh Government said it wants to ensure a cautious exiting from lockdown restrictions. Credit: ITV Wales

Carrie Parisella owns an ice cream parlour in Conwy. She is operating a take-away service but said it is "critical" that tourism businesses are able to reopen for Easter - so businesses like hers can trade fully.

"With the proper risk assessments and Covid risk assessments and all the safety measures, I definitely think we should be starting the roadmap out of Covid," she said.

"We have to plan ahead in catering, we have to order from suppliers, staff want to know exactly what is going on so yes, we absolutely have to have a date."

Wales is currently in its third national lockdown meaning the tourism sector has effectively experienced three winters, suffering massive losses in business.

Ms Parisella stressed that the industry cannot afford to miss out on anymore trade.

The ice cream shop owner said: "It's imperative, we must be open for Easter. It's critical that we're open for Easter.

"We've missed so much of the peak trading season and peak trading times, it just can't continue."

Tim Hughes runs Conwy Sightseeing Tours and said his business only operated for eight or nine weeks in total all of last year because of the pandemic.

He believes the economy is going to have to reopen soon as "it can't carry on" as it is.

Mr Hughes said: "I think the way the vaccinations are going at the minute, the only thing they can do now is just reopen the economy. It can't stay like this."

There are around 11,000 tourism businesses in Wales which bring in almost £7bn a year. Credit: ITV Wales

Others in the sector are more cautious. Despite agreeing that they need plenty of warning so they can prepare ahead of reopening, some think we need to be more mindful of the data around virus transmission.

Gift shop owner, Mike Pattinson said: "We've tried rushing it and you've seen what's happened. It's just come back with a vengeance, especially with this new strain.

"It's been a difficult call, it's hurting me because I'm perpetually closed. I can't open, I can't sell. It's a tragedy but I've just go to bite the bullet."

Mike Pattinson described it as a tragedy that he cannot reopen but believes virus transmission could be too much of a threat. Credit: ITV Wales

FSB Wales want Welsh Government to outline a plan for businesses to be able to reopen this Easter after last year saw few opportunities for tourism firms to make profit.

Ben Francis, FSB Wales Policy Chair, said: "On top of the repeated closures and restrictions that have made it incredibly difficult to run a small business and sustain jobs and investment, tourism firms are in the dark about what the coming months could hold for them.

"These businesses need to be able to plan ahead if they are to take advantage of the spring and summer season.

"We understand that things might change and that the course of the virus has been unpredictable at many times during this pandemic, but we still believe that the First Minister must bring business owners into the conversation about their future."

Tourists spend almost seven billion pounds in Wales every year. Credit: ITV Wales

The Health Minister said earlier this week that now was not the time to give specific set date on easing different restrictions.

"What we want to do is make choices based on the best available data and information, to see case rates driven as low as possible, and then to have a cautious exit out of the current lockdown that we're in," Mr Gething said.

Wales' rolling seven-day Covid case rate is now at 85.8 per 100,000 of the population.

First Minister Mark Drakeford previously said "cautious" talks are ongoing with the tourism and hospitality industries in Wales about reopening in time for Easter.

Mr Drakeford is expected to announce any changes to the current restrictions on Friday 19 February as part of the next three-week review of lockdown rules.