As part of our series of interviews on tourism in Coastal West Sussex, we spoke to Jo Williams, Partnership Manager at Experience West Sussex Partnership. The Partnership works with the county, district and borough councils, the Coastal West Sussex Partnership and other tourism partners to deliver business support and help attract visitors to the area.

The pandemic hit hospitality and tourism industries particularly badly. How has Experience West Sussex been supporting businesses?

Experience West Sussex have been working alongside our visitor economy businesses over the last two years to provide support to help weather the Covid storm.

As part of our support for the coastal economy, Experience West Sussex and the Coastal West Sussex Partnership have been working in partnership with England’s Coast, a destination partnership supporting the coastal visitor economy. Its consumer research shows that 74 per cent of domestic consumers are considering a break to the coast in 2022 and discussions at the beginning of the year with partners across Europe spoke of promising signs of some recovery over the next 12 months. 

Jo Williams, Partnership Manager at Experience West Sussex Partnership

2022 is hopefully looking to be a more stable operating environment with regards to Covid restrictions and increased vaccination levels.

The domestic boom that we saw last year will be challenged this year however, as the outbound market will be operating with fewer restrictions than last summer, but as the England’s Coast figures show, there seems to be a positive mood for demand. However, there are still many challenges for the sector.

What are the main challenges for our coastal West Sussex tourism and hospitality businesses in 2022?

Recent research has shown that our coastal tourism and hospitality businesses are exceptionally fragile – many have said they have one or two months of reserves. It’s essential they have a good summer this year.

Although 2022 is looking more stable with regards to Covid restrictions and increased vaccination levels, more people are likely to be travelling abroad. Other major challenges facing the sector include uncertainty around conflict in Europe, recruitment challenges and the cost-of-living crisis that puts the inevitable squeeze on discretionary income, which is vital for our sector.

The awful situation in Ukraine is going to have knock on impacts to the travel and tourism world – flight path changes and increased energy costs are already happening. We are yet to see what this means for inbound recovery.

What needs to happen to help the sector grow?

Experience West Sussex has recently asked what specific support businesses are looking for. Tourism business owners have fed back that they would like more guidance on funding and grants, access to free marketing, tips on sustainability, and support with planning, recruitment and networking.

We are working with the Coastal West Sussex Partnership to deliver this relevant support over the next year.

Experience West Sussex also supports those in the industry calling for the reductions to VAT for tourism, as this would really help businesses.

While all other major European tourism destinations apply a Reduced Rate of VAT to tourism products (averaging 10.5 per cent), the UK applies the Standard Rate of 20 per cent. This puts the UK at a severe competitive disadvantage. Reducing VAT to 5 per cent on accommodation and attractions will create 80,000 jobs and provide a return to the Exchequer of £2.6 billion over 10 years.