More than 1,000 Blackpool businesses have called on the Prime Minister to save the seaside resort from “catastrophic” damage caused by Tier 3 restrictions.
Representatives of tourism businesses in the Lancashire town wrote an open letter to Boris Johnson which said the restrictions, announced last Friday, had caused mass cancellations of hotel and attraction bookings in two of the busiest weeks of the year.
In the letter, delivered on Thursday, they argued a comprehensive package of aid was needed to prevent businesses closing and hundreds of jobs being lost.
Kate Shane, head of cluster for Merlin Entertainments, which runs attractions at Blackpool Tower as well as the Sea Life Centre and Madame Tussauds in the town, said: “As a tourism industry we find ourselves in uncharted waters.
“Losing the Easter and May bank holidays was a terrible start to the tourism season, but to lose the most important two weeks of the year in October half-term is catastrophic.”
The town’s annual illuminations are due to stay on display until January, for two months longer than usual, in a bid to boost tourism.
On Wednesday night, an SOS message lit up the tower to highlight the plight of the tourism industry.
Leader of Blackpool Council Lynn Williams said: “The speed at which our tourism economy has unravelled on the back of last week’s lockdown restrictions is alarming.
“What has become totally apparent is that the measures that have been put in place are nowhere near enough to support a tourism economy like Blackpool’s.
“We have hundreds of businesses here that were not included in any of the Government’s temporary closure orders but due to the imposition of regulations and advice relating to travel are more likely facing permanent closure.”
The Government has agreed to provide £30 million of support to Lancashire but business owners in Blackpool say that will not be enough to support the tourism economy, which is worth £1.6 billion and supports more than 25,000 jobs.
Claire Smith, president of holiday association Stay Blackpool, said announcing the Tier 3 restrictions on a Friday afternoon before half term holidays created “total chaos”.
She said: “The end result was cancellations on a scale that none of us in the hotel industry have ever experienced before.
“The accommodation sector is a vital element of Blackpool’s tourism economy and, unless something is done immediately, parts of it will never recover.”
Martin Long, chairman of the Blackpool Business Leadership Group, said: “In reality, what is happening to Blackpool’s tourism industry right now could have serious implications for years to come unless something is done.
“Tens of thousands of people are directly employed within the tourism sector, but there are many, many more who work in the supply chain and are almost wholly dependent on there being a thriving visitor economy.”