Welcoming back the visitors who safeguard around 11,000 local jobs

I visited the award-winning Kents Cavern as it welcomed back visitors

I visited the award-winning Kents Cavern as it welcomed back visitors - Credit: Kents Cavern

This week we have seen the most significant step yet to safely re-opening the Bay and to getting our economy back on track.

We have started strongly.

Case figures are low in Torbay, our vaccination take up rate is high and many of our businesses and residents are doing their bit to comply with the restrictions and safety guidance in place.

While never forgetting the lives lost to Covid-19 here in the Bay, we have fared far better than many areas and this is down to the strength of our communities pulling in the same direction.

Although the risk of the virus, particularly new variants, is an ever-present concern I am very much part of the collective sigh of relief that finally we seem to be cautiously turning a corner.

Our business community has suffered greatly, not just our vital tourism sector, but also all our day-to-day businesses.

So far, we have distributed over £76 million in grants to over 2,000 businesses and more applications are coming in for the current wave of funding.

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There are still businesses around the Bay that could benefit but haven’t applied, so I do urge you to check again at www.torbay.gov.uk/advice-and-support-for-businesses and claim what you are entitled to.

Visitors play a vital role in our economy. They spend more than £400 million and safeguard around 11,000 local jobs.

That’s almost 20 per cent of all employment and with the predicted boom in UK-based holidays this year, we need to kick-start our tourism sector safely for visitors to keep coming back.

It’s great to see some of our top attractions reopening their doors to the public again.

On Monday, I visited Kents Cavern as it welcomed back visitors with Covid safety measures in place.

This award-winning attraction is recognised by UNESCO and is a Scheduled Ancient Monument with a history dating back 385 million years.

We’re so lucky to have hidden gems like this on our doorsteps and I hope that this summer revitalises our attractions after being forced to close for so long.

We're expecting a bumper summer and we’re committed to ensuring the Bay is at its best.

We’ve recruited a team of Clean and Green Ambassadors to support local street cleansing services, carry out frequent cleaning and litter collections and prevent overcrowding in tourist hotspots.

We’re also delighted to join forces with Keep Britain Tidy and local partners such as SWISCo, Groundwork South, Tor Bay Harbour and a range of local community groups so that we can all do our bit to clean up the Bay.

That’s why this year we are supporting the Great British Spring Clean from May 28 to June 13 and encouraging local residents to take part in a local litter pick or beach clean as part of Keep Britain Tidy’s ‘Million Mile Mission’.

I took part in a litter pick in The Willows last weekend, and it is a great way to meet other people and improve the local environment.

There is some satisfaction in knowing you are helping the local community and that you could be inspiring others to play their part too.

If you are planning a litter pick or beach clean contact engagement@torbay.gov.uk so that we can arrange with SWISCo to loan you litter-picking equipment and clear up any collected waste bags at the end.

Next week we will hold our very first hybrid Cabinet meeting. Meeting up with members of the Cabinet and key officers in the same room again after so long seeing everyone through a computer screen will be a surreal experience as we start to get back to life as normal.

To meet Covid-19 security arrangements there is the facility for others to attend the meeting remotely via Zoom so we can keep the meeting open and transparent and allow those registered to speak. It’s another example of how we are all adapting and finding new ways of working in this ever-changing world.