Here's to five more years after resounding 'YES' vote

Torbay Weekly

The company which has led Torbay's tourism and hospitality industry through the most turbulent times in its history has convincingly won the battle to do it all again.

And it is the part played by chief executive Carolyn Custerson and her team at the English Riviera Tourism Company in guiding the Bay - and others nationally - through the traumas of the pandemic and devastating lockdowns that has helped to give them a second term in office.

After an independent month-long postal ballot, eligible businesses voted YES to continue the English Riviera Business Improvement District. It will now operate for another five years, spending over £3 million on marketing and helping to manage the resort to make it one of the premier holiday destinations in the UK.

The ballot result was announced by Torbay Council  chief executive and returning officer Anne-Marie Bond at a special reception at the Carlton Hotel in Torquay on Friday.

76 per cent of the 404 businesses who voted were in favour of BID 2 - 83 per cent voted in favour by rateable value. A majority was required on both counts for the BID to continue.

BID company chairman Tim Godfrey said: ‘’We are thrilled with the result as it will allow us to continue the work we have been doing to support local tourism businesses. Professionally coordinated Destination Marketing is critically important and I would like to take this opportunity to thank those businesses that took the time to vote in what has been an incredibly difficult time for everyone.’’

CEO Mrs Custerson added: "I am very excited about the future. So much has been achieved over the past five years and we can now build on this taking full advantage of the easing of lockdown as well as all the investment we are seeing in the Bay. I am really looking forward to continuing to work with our amazing tourism businesses and strategic partners to secure our position long term, as the UK’s premier resort.’’

The BID company put the Bay on the front foot when the horrendous impact Covid was about to have on the sector became clear with thousands of jobs at risk and hundreds of millions of pounds in danger of being wiped from the economy.

Mrs Custerson and her team, helped by Torbay Council, TDA and local MPs Kevin Foster and Anthony Magnall, were soon to have regular conversations with ministers, officials from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and other destination  marketing organisations like Visit England and Visit Devon to fight the sector's corner locally, regionally and nationally.

Notable victories, including those with VAT payments and furlough periods, were won to soften the blow to an industry closed down and brought t its knees virtually overnight.

Chairman Mr Godfrey said: "This is a pivotal moment for the Bay and its aspirations of being that premier coastal destination.

"What the team has done has been exceptional, especially during the past 18 months when we won the hearts and minds of people."

Company vice-chairman Martin Brook added: "The vote is stupendous for the English Riviera and a massive vote of confidence. e have screamed to be at the table rather than a little island. Now people listen to us."

BID2 will focus on delivering a refreshed five-year business pPlan, which has been the result of extensive consultation with businesses since February.

Highlights of the plan include an increased focus on high profile Digital Marketing to reach new audiences nationally and increased investment in the development of new year-round events programme, working in partnership with Torbay Council.