Reacting to the Chancellor’s Autumn Budget statement, Cumbria’s official Destination Management Organisation says there is welcome news for the county’s tourism and hospitality industry – but Cumbria Tourism also believes more detail is needed to reveal the full picture.
Among the measures announced today is a 50% business rates discount for businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors, up to a maximum of £110,000. Tax relief on museums and galleries will be extended until March 2024, and there will be significant changes to alcohol duty including a new ‘draught relief’ cutting duty on beer and cider sold in pubs.
However, measures to create a more competitive visa system for overseas workers has been limited to highly-skilled, hi-tech companies. Calls to permanently lower the 12.5% VAT rate for tourism businesses – led by Cumbria Tourism – have also been overlooked.
Chairman of Cumbria Tourism, Jim Walker, says, “Today’s budget is a bit of a mixed bag from the perspective of tourism businesses, but overall, there is some welcome news which will help safeguard jobs and businesses in Cumbria in the short to medium term.
“Reforms to business rates – including a new 12-month relief for companies to invest in their premises – are very positive, as is the new one year 50% discount on business rates for hospitality and retail. However, we do need to be mindful that some of our smallest operators unfortunately won’t benefit as they don’t pay business rates.
“It’s also fantastic to see investment in heritage and culture; these organisations have been impacted massively by the pandemic, but many still aren’t operating at full capacity and do need that extra support. The new tax relief on museums and galleries is a really welcome move and we’re looking forward to seeing more detail on this.
“The changes to alcohol duty should be helpful to Cumbrian pubs, breweries and producers. We’re also pleased about further investment in rail travel, although again, we need to see the detail to ensure that some of this will filter through to bolster services in our county.
He adds, “Overall, it is good to see tangible signs of an economic recovery reflected in the Chancellor’s budget speech. The flipside of this is higher inflation which could potentially impact on visitors’ discretionary spend for leisure activities. This is definitely something for us to watch closely.
“Looking ahead, we would have liked more of a focus on tackling longer-term issues around recruitment and retention, for which we have been lobbying strongly. The Government has introduced much greater flexibility around visas in other industries, so we continue to call for this to be extended to tourism and hospitality workers from overseas.
“It’s also disappointing that our calls to maintain the 12.5% VAT rate for tourism businesses have been unsuccessful. This would have helped create more longer-term stability for our industry and we will be asking the Government to look again at this issue.”