A new scheme is being launched to support tourism and visitor-centred businesses in the Burnham-On-Sea area in the wake of the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The visitor economy plays an important part in the wider Somerset economy and coronavirus restrictions have hit businesses and employment hard.
Now, Somerset’s County and District Councils have put in place the Visitor Economy Support Programme (VESP) to help businesses strengthen and build their competitiveness.
The programme has been designed to provide help and support so that small and medium size businesses in the sector are more resilient and ready to recover and grow.
The initiative has been developed in partnership – local authorities in Somerset have worked closely with business representative bodies and wider local stakeholders, including Visit Somerset, Visit Exmoor and Exmoor National Park Authority.
The £250,000 first phase of the programme will focus on sector specialist and county-wide marketing, coronavirus-safe advice, business support and digital skills. Beneficiaries will be able to work directly with industry experts to identify and develop their business model and customer experience.
It is being funded through a Business Rates Retention pilot scheme that allows councils in Somerset to retain a proportion of the business rates income locally to invest in developing the economy and improving the way local authority services are delivered.
Cllr Gill Slocombe, Sedgemoor’s Portfolio Holder for Inward Investment and Growth, commented: “We know that many of Sedgemoor’s tourism businesses give such a welcoming and positive impression of the area to the many thousands of our visitors. Unfortunately, we have witnessed first-hand how many of them are struggling in the face of the Covid-19 restrictions.”
“We are pleased to have worked with partners to put in place measures that will help them, particularly through greater and wider promotion of Somerset as a destination.”
The first phase of the programme will run until December 2021, and a second phase of activity is under development.
Councillor David Hall, Somerset County Council Cabinet member for Economic Development, Planning and Community Infrastructure, said: “Tourism plays a significant role in Somerset’s economy, and there can be no doubt that many businesses in this sector have been feeling the impacts caused by the coronavirus pandemic.”
“The Visitor Economy Support Programme has been developed to help businesses adapt and enhance their offer so that Somerset’s tourism industry can recover as quickly and safely as possible.” Further details will be available here when available.