Experience Oxfordshire organise MP visit to discuss the impact of Covid-19 on Visitor Economy Businesses
This week Experience Oxfordshire, the Destination Management Organisation (DMO) for Oxfordshire, arranged for Robert Courts MP to visit businesses in his constituency of West Oxfordshire and discuss the impact that the pandemic was having locally. Visits were made to Caswell House in Brize Norton and Wychwood Brewery in Witney.
At the start of the pandemic Experience Oxfordshire undertook extensive research on the impact of Covid-19 which showed serious concern for loss of business revenue and how businesses would be able to continue to operate. As government restrictions are slowly being lifted it has become clear that the challenges across the visitor economy continue and the sector remains fragile and vulnerable.
In ‘normal’ times visitor expenditure across Oxfordshire amounts to £2.3billion per annum and supports 40,000 jobs locally, with a big reliance on the international market with inbound visitors accounting for 40% of visitor expenditure. It has been announced this week by national agency VisitBritain that inbound tourism levels are not expected to return to pre Covid-19 levels until 2024 and locally businesses are feeling the absence of international visitors with some loses in revenue of over 50% making it hard for businesses to be viable and putting many jobs at risk of redundancy as the furlough scheme comes to an end.
Hayley Beer-Gamage, Chief Executive of Experience Oxfordshire, accompanied the MP on the visits and commented: “It has been really important for us to get political engagement on the impact that this pandemic is having on the visitor economy and we welcomed the opportunity to facilitate this visit with Robert Courts MP. Our partners need to feel like they have a voice and route to government to explain the very real impact this is having on their livelihoods and the wider supply chain impact that any potential closure of businesses may have. We hope that our sector will be championed inside Westminster and its value recognised as further recovery plans and support are announced”.
The first place that was visited was Caswell House, an award-winning venue owned and managed by the Matthews family who have over many years diversified their farming and agriculture business into a highly successful and established wedding business. However, given a lack of clarity on how and when weddings as we know them can operate again, they are concerned about the future of their business. During the visit Kate Cross of Caswell House, put forward a strong case to Robert Courts MP on the impact it was having and commented; “We appreciate our local MP coming to visit us and would like to thank Experience Oxfordshire for the opportunity. We are extremely concerned about the lack of clarity, guidance and time frame for our couples and for businesses like ours as to when we will be able to operate again. We have had to temporarily pivot our business, focusing on accommodation stays. However, we need to be able to undertake our core business again and would urge government to come up with a roadmap for the entire wedding industry. This part of the sector feels forgotten about, yet it is worth over £10billion a year nationally”.
The visit then moved onto Wychwood Brewery where the MP was given a tour of the local brewery by Head Brewer Jon Tilson and sampled the tap room bar. Hannah Scott, Assistant Brand Manager at the Brewery commented “This pandemic has been difficult for us all. We have worked hard to diversify as much as we can within government guidelines and our online ordering facility helped during lockdown. However, due to social distancing guidance we have not yet reopened our brewery tours which has impacted our ability to generate revenue. It was great to have our DMO approach us for this visit and we appreciated the opportunity to speak with Robert about our business and the impact it has on the wider local economy. We very much hope that we continue to be supported by the loyal following we have built up over many years and would like to encourage people back to our shop and tap bar which are open with social distancing measures in place.”
Robert Courts is the Conservative MP for Witney and has been an MP continuously since 20 October 2016. He has always shown an interest in the visitor economy locally and used this opportunity during summer recess to engage with businesses. Speaking on the visit Robert Courts MP commented; “It has been a pleasure go out and visit businesses in my constituency today. It is clear that the pandemic is having a severe impact on how businesses are able to operate. It has been great to hear how businesses have diversified during this time, but I appreciate that for some this is a temporary measure. I hope that I may be able to influence more support for this sector and will certainly do all I can to help. The visitor economy and its impact are so important locally and we want it to be able to recover quickly and in strength. I commend Experience Oxfordshire on all their efforts during Covid-19 on championing the sector and providing essential business support.”
Experience Oxfordshire are continuing to gain insight locally on the impact of Covid-19 across the visitor economy and feed it back locally and nationally as all areas of tourism, hospitality, retail, arts culture, transport and events need to be supported so the sector can recover and thrive again. The DMO is keen to work with as many businesses as possible across Oxfordshire and for information on becoming a partner, please email email@example.com or visit www.experienceoxfordshire.org/partner
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Photos from visit can be found here: https://experienceoxfordshire535.sharepoint.com/:f:/s/EOMarketingTeam/Egjs-0-NWIVLndTLZ6d9DkgBynthh1dl5NCMynoWDYQpoA?e=1EAkNh