With the county cautiously emerging from lockdown, there is a renewed hope of recovery for the coast and countryside as businesses look to move forward with the ‘new normal’.
As Head of Economic Development and Growth at East Lindsey District Council, it’s been difficult to put into words just how the impact of COVID-19 has affected all of us. Thanks to the Government’s package of support, we were able to help 5,000 local businesses with a £60 million package, and even though it was immensely stressful, it was a glimpse into the stark reality into how COVID-19 was affecting all of these businesses.
It was very far-reaching in that the tourism trade affected many other sectors in some way, from an accountant to a farmer, and all of these factors only amplified just how important tourism really is.
We now need to focus our efforts on supporting local businesses while also being mindful of the impact to the local area.
As we ease out of lockdown, we need to make sure that tourism is seen as something encouraging, not as a negative connotation. Working with the University of Lincoln’s International Business School’s tourism department and their studies has given us insight and has shown a rise in people wanting to take short breaks across Lincolnshire.
This can open up a multitude of opportunities to everyone, which is why there are a plethora of initiatives to help support the cause; such as Vital and Viable, a programme that sees investment into market towns. Or a Towns Fund that can look to rejuvenite certain parts of towns across Lincolnshire, and finally a collective of agencies to help make the towns in a better image.
It’s important that we support all of these, as there is clear proof that tourists want to visit without a fear of COVID-19 and a need to help local businesses. The media has only reinforced this, with opinion pieces and video clips of those who have clearly stated that they need customers to come in and help support them.
There is a role for the public sector with different district councils coming together which has already begun, as well as working alongside businesses which have a vested interest in promoting Lincolnshire and partners such as the country councils and local enterprise partnerships.
The Government’s ‘Towns Fund’ is a huge £3.6 billion collective, with £25 million going to Boston, Skegness, Maplethorpe and Lincoln each. This brings opportunity and even hope to businesses and the tourism industry across Lincolnshire after the events this year. It can help highlight the best attributes of these towns, from their natural produce, glorious heritage and far-reaching countryside.
In turn, this can generate local pride, which is something that I feel needs to be pushed across the towns. You only need to look at the collective efforts of the public supporting the NHS during these times, and having something similar to Lincolnshire and what it’s capable of, can really attract more tourists to visit the towns.
Right now, myself and the team cannot rest on our laurels. We have a responsibility to all work together to help raise the profile of Lincolnshire, but also to work hard in investing in what our appeal is to visitors. I personally believe that there is scope to not only increase visitor numbers, but also to increase the spend of those visitors.
What makes Lincolnshire unique is that we’ve not only got a beautiful city, open rural spaces as well as the coast, but it’s the people that make it special. You can feel at home, no matter where you are.