A ministerial statement in a House of Commons debate on tourism this week has offered a small ray of light for those coach tour operators who have not been successful in gaining access to Covid grants because they don’t have a retail premises selling direct to consumers.
Minister Nigel Huddlestone acknowledged that coach tour operators are severely impacted by Covid restrictions yet unable to access discretionary schemes such as the Additional Restrictions Grants, as they are not specifically listed in the guidance. He recommended that local authorities be sympathetic to applications from a range of businesses who are excluded and may be ineligible for other grants. There is of course no guarantee that such grant applications will be successful, but it may be worth pursuing. The Local Government Association is believed to be preparing a statement about eligibility to be sent to all councils in the next few days.
CTA, working with the Tourism Alliance, is continuing to press for coach tour operators to be included in the formal guidance, and we are also seeking to clarify to the minister that coach tour operators sell directly to consumers and are a core part of the tourism sector and not just “facilitators”.
The statement from tourism minister Nigel Huddleston said:
“The guidance for these additional restrictions grants encourages local authorities to develop discretionary schemes to help those businesses that are perhaps not legally forced to close but are none the less severely impacted by the restrictions put in place to control the spread of covid. These could include, for example, businesses that supply the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors or businesses in the events sector. On this point, I have received a number of reports that some tourism-related businesses, which might not be ratepayers and are not explicitly mentioned in the guidance on these grant schemes, are being deemed ineligible by some local authorities.
“To be clear to those local authorities and those businesses, although the ultimate decision is at the local authority’s discretion, the fund can, and in my opinion certainly should, be used to provide grants to tour operators, coach operators, school travel companies, English language schools, event organisers and similar businesses, all of which serve as vital facilitators to the tourism industry even if they do not sell to consumers directly on a specific premise. I therefore encourage and expect local authorities to be sympathetic to applications from those businesses and others that have been impacted by covid-19 restrictions but are ineligible for the other grant schemes. “