The future of tourism in Torbay – there is no Plan B

Joseph Bulmer

Torbay’s tourism and hospitality sector is worth an estimated £600 million per annum to our local economy.

There has never been a more important time for the sector as we begin to recover from the pandemic and the devastating impact it has had.

The sector is second only to health and social care for its value to our local economy.

As somebody who was raised in a guest house in Lymington Road, tourism is, like it or not, what ‘we’ do, it’s who ‘we’ are.

Whether you live in Torbay or are just visiting, there’s no denying that when the sun is shining, and the sea is sparkling there really is no better place to be.

Visitors choosing to come to Torbay for days or weeks at a time doesn’t just happen.

It takes time, investment and a coordinated approach – something which the council just doesn’t have the resources to do.

Since austerity kicked in a little over ten years ago the council has faced half-a-billion pounds of cuts or increased demand on our limited budget.

The council now only gets 15p for every £1 it used to receive from its main Government grant.

Since January 2017, the English Riviera Business Improvement District (ERBID) has been responsible for bringing stability, financial security, unity and continuity to our tourism and hospitality industry.

Without the experience of the ERBID board, the English Riviera wouldn’t have seen an increase in visitor numbers and spend, an extension of the traditional summer season and £3million of BID levy invested in marketing the area as an all-year round destination.

As soon as the pandemic hit, the ERBID company made a quick decision to adjust its normal programme of work and were at the forefront of providing support and information to levy payers, recognising how hard the sector was being hit.

Along with myself, the ERBID Company lobbied for financial support to the sector – extending furlough, five per cent VAT, extensions of business rates relief and maximising discretionary grants.

As part of the ‘big reopening’ of Torbay, I recently visited TLH, a number of small hoteliers in Belgrave Road and Beverley Park in Paignton to listen to the industry and understand the challenges they would face in the future if the ERBBID Company wasn’t there.

This is a crucial time for the sector, as the  ERBID company will cease to exist in its current form after December 31 – along with it all of its key work.

All eligible businesses in Torbay are now being asked to vote for ERBID2, which would see a further £3 million invested over the next five years to promote the English Riviera, plus a further £500,000 to support the development of our events strategy which would bring the ring-fenced total for all-year round event development to *£600k for the next three years.

These huge financial commitments will only be possible, though, if all businesses that are eligible to vote for ERBID 2 vote ‘yes’.

Ballot papers were sent out on May 27 and must be returned by post by June 24.

There is no ‘Plan B’ here, no replacement body that can deliver the services provided by the ERBID  company.

Prior to its formation our tourism industry had been in decline, and we cannot allow that to happen again.

For every pound ERBID invests in marketing, over £75 is returned and reaches an audience of over 14 million people.

Torbay is on the up. There are many multi-million pound projects happening all across the area to ensure that Torbay thrives not only economically but through its people, businesses and infrastructure.

If your business has received voting papers, I strongly urge you to vote ‘yes’.

No matter how big or small your business is, can you really afford not to benefit from the expertise, dedication and support that ERBID2 will bring?

Remember voting papers must be returned by post by June 24.