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Challenging times for county's leisure industry

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After a bumper summer season and with a robust outlook for 2022, Complete Commercial Finance’s Karl Lanham asks, ‘What’s next for Norfolk’s leisure and tourism sector?

The year of 2021 has certainly been a story of two halves and, after a January lockdown, thegradual easing of restrictions has seen us largely able to resume normal life.

After a tenuous start for pubs, restaurants and cafés, most are now able to fill capacity, although what one hand gives the other has sadly taken away with the ping-demic impacting staffing levels, just in sight of an opportunity to recoup some of last year’s losses.

Karl Lanham of Complete Commercial Finance (51525646)
Karl Lanham of Complete Commercial Finance (51525646)

A recent rise in operational costs has also bitten deeply and further impacted the bottom line.

International travel has obviously been the big exception to returning to the full freedom of movement we enjoyed pre-pandemic, and the ever-changing traffic light system for overseas destinations and significant cost of PCR testing has prompted many to staycation this summer. Norfolk’s leisure and tourism companies have seen a boom in business which doesn’t show signs of slowing as we move neatly into ‘empty nester’ season.

VisitEngland’s £5.4 million Escape the Everyday – Enjoy the UK this summer campaign, part of the UK Government’s GREAT Britain and Northern Ireland initiative, has helped to bring holidaymakers to our county, although there is still some way to go to match pre-pandemic revenues. The tourism agency has forecast domestic tourism spending at £51.4 billion this year, just over half of the £91.6 billion of 2019. Last year saw about two-thirds of the value wiped off the domestic tourism industry in Britain, a £58 billion loss to the economy. The figures demonstrate the hard reality for many regional leisure and tourism businesses.

More positively, many businesses have seen a surge in 2022 bookings, reporting a switch in mindset from ‘wait and see’ to ‘get it booked’ among holidaymakers hoping to nab the best places to stay. However, industry experts have cautioned against some of the dramatic price hikes seen by leisure and tourism businesses this year, predicting that overseas travel operators will fight hard to win back Brits with low-cost, all-inclusive package holidays.

Craig Bradley, associate travel and tourism analyst at GlobalData, warns: “Increasing prices risk resulting in a lost opportunity for many UK tourism companies that previously had a prime opportunity to increase competitiveness with outbound tour operators. Instead, over-inflated prices could effectively price them out of the market for summer 2022 and beyond, when UK travellers are more likely to venture abroad again.”

Arguably, the region’s leisure and tourism companies are between a rock and a hard place in a highly competitive market, and it goes without saying that keeping a careful eye on their business’ finances is key to navigating the uncertain months ahead.

We work with many local firms and understand how commercial finance can provide stability during the peaks and troughs of seasonal activity.

It’s one of the reasons we are proud to sponsor the Leisure and Tourism Award at this year’s Mayor’s Business Awards, at a time when celebrating business success feels more important than ever. If you are a leisure and tourism firm, get involved and enter your company to share your story of success in one of the most challenging times in our history.

For more information, contact Karl Lanham at Complete Commercial Finance on 01553 611619 or visit ccf.finance

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