STRATFORD is ‘battling on’ despite coronavirus – but the public’s support is needed, say local tourism bosses.
The Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce held the latest meeting of the south Warwickshire Branch online and heard from Stratford District Council’s tourism spokesman, councillor Matt Jennings, and Shakespeare’s England chief executive Helen Peters.
They said while the district council had supported businesses through grants and tourism was adapting to the ‘new normal’, support was still needed.
Coun Jennings said: “Our district was one of the worst hit local areas in the West Midlands after the coronavirus outbreak, because of its reliance on the tourism sector.
“In our district alone, there was 21,200 on the government’s furlough scheme and 5,500 on the self-employed income support scheme.
“But even with these figures, Stratford district has a lot to offer, we are still working on a number of projects such as the Canal Quarter regeneration, the World Shakespeare Centre, Stratford Riverside Green Corridor project and the Wellesbourne Campus for the University of Warwick.
“But we are all going to have to do our bit over the coming weeks and months as it is going to have to be a collaborative recovery between the councils, businesses and members of the public.
“To quote a certain Mr Shakespeare – ‘It is not in the stars to hold our destiny, but in ourselves’.”
Helen Peters agreed that everyone needs to continue to offer their support locally.
She added: “We are not expecting to see visitor figures bounce back to what the levels were in 2019 until somewhere around 2024.
“This is because of the huge restrictions in place as a result of coronavirus, quarantining and waiting to find a vaccine – not to mention Brexit which will also have a major impact, so there are definitely big challenges ahead.
“But it is not all doom and gloom, we have had many businesses who acted swiftly after the first national lockdown, adapting and changing their offer to meet the new criteria, many of them have received some support from the Culture Recovery Fund.
“It is support like this and the innovation and agility of businesses, and working in collaboration that will keep them viable for the future.”
Chair of the South Warwickshire Branch of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, Larry Coltman said: “When the second lockdown is lifted, we need to be supporting the local tourism and hospitality sector as it is a massive employer for the area.
“But not only that, the sector is another way that helps to put our area on the map and we need to make sure that this continues.”