By Peter Tremayne
County Hall has finally published its detailed thinking about when the tourism industry should re-open, following suggestions from its own economy chief that holidaymakers should stay away from Cornwall until September.
A 13-page paper titled “Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Tourism Recovery Plan” will be discussed at a meeting of the local “leadership board” tomorrow (Friday.) The constitutional position of this “board” is uncertain, and it is interesting that the document was not presented to yesterday’s meeting of Cornwall Council’s cabinet.
The “Recovery Plan” rejects the ideas promoted by the cabinet’s portfolio holder Tim Dwelly, in media interviews earlier this week, but it does not explicitly rule out his suggestion of re-opening the tourism sector later in the year. Mr Dwelly's political opponents, however, are likely to seize on the document as evidence that the new cabinet member had not consulted industry experts before seeking national media attention.
The plan considers the advantages and disadvantages of a delayed re-start to economic activity and leans very heavily in favour of welcoming tourists back to Cornwall as soon as government Covid-19 regulations permit.
The plan warns that a delay of the sort that Mr Dwelly favours could cost Cornwall’s economy around £300 million. Only three elected Cornwall councillors are members of the leadership board and Mr Dwelly is not one of them. Curiously, all six of Cornwall’s MPs, and the Police and Crime Commissioner, are members. Even the Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall has attended its meetings.
“As we approach the broader re-opening of the economy, the popularity of our region as the UK’s no.1 tourism destination and limitations of non-domestic holiday travel will mean a high demand from visitors,” says the plan.
“A typical day in August sees our population swell by more than 180,000 people a day. Notwithstanding the impact of population increase, not all of tourism is a high-risk sector. Visit Cornwall has been working with Visit Britain on a national kitemark, which is awaiting ministerial sign off, to help convey messaging to the public and visitors in line with the timing of aspects of re-opening and the various sector specific guidance and risk assessment that are to be in place for this.
“Before COVID-19 all businesses had a legal responsibility to assess and manage risk and these new COVID-19 risks need to be assessed and mitigated in a revised set of operating procedures, staff training and consumer communications.”
The report adds that many businesses have already undertaken detailed risk assessments and mitigation actions; have developed revised operational processes and procedures; have produced updated staff training procedures/manuals; and have drafted communications and web content to ensure that guests, staff and residents are reassured that risk has been managed and there are safe operations.
“All the above businesses that have undertaken the correct preparation will move to implementation, returning staff/more staff from furlough open on the first day that is allowed,” says the plan. “All other business will have to start or complete the actions needed to be COVID-19 Safe i.e. Risk assessments, mitigation, revised procedure and communications.”
The plan advocates roadside signage to remind holidaymakers of the Covid-19 risks, extended funding to the Isles of Scilly until March 2021 to subsidise transport links, and – later – further requests to central government for a targeted job retention scheme and more discretionary grants.