Shropshire Star

First Minister welcomes tourists back

We are open for business, the leader of Wales today told people from across Shropshire and the West Midlands.

Mark Drakeford

In an interview with the Shropshire Star, Mark Drakeford said he wanted to see the usual influx of people coming across the border for holidays and day trips.

The Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford was today expected to announce that hotels, guest houses and caravan parks will be allowed to reopen on Saturday, followed by outdoor areas at pubs, restaurants and cafes on Monday.

That means favourite resorts for West Midlanders, like Barmouth and Llandudno, will be opening up and hoping for a much-needed economic lift.

"We are very happy to welcome people back to Wales, but we ask people when they come here to be responsible," Mr Drakeford said.

The news follows Monday's announcement that restrictions on people travelling across the Welsh border had been dropped.

Hundreds of thousands of people from the West Midlands visit the Welsh coast and mountains each year. Resorts have close ties to our region, with many moving there to work or retire. Many schools take their students on activity holidays at centres owned by councils in the West Midlands, like Arthog and Towers.

Mr Drakeford spoke to the Shropshire Star because he knows the value of tourism. English visitors straying over the border have met with hostility on lockdown, with 'go home' messages on roadsides.

Barmouth Beach

But Mr Drakeford said the country was now ready to be able to provide a more traditionally warm welcome to English visitors.

He the Welsh Government had been paying close attention to the experiences since the pubs reopened in England on Saturday, and said he believed it had largely been successful.

"There have been one or two problems, we wouldn't want to see a repeat of what had happened in Soho, but by and large I think it has worked well," he said.

Mr Drakeford said he expected to be able to relax restrictions because of the success in bringing the infection rate down.

He acknowledged that the lockdown had been tough on the hospitality trade, and said he hoped that the reopening of hotels, guest houses and tourist attractions would allow the industry to be able to salvage at least some of the summer tourist trade.

Mr Drakeford said hospitality and tourism were extremely important to the Welsh economy, but he said measures to reopen the industry would only be successful if they had the goodwill of the wider population.

"I feel very much for people whose businesses have been affected, particularly as the start of the lockdown coincided with unusually warm spring weather, where in normal circumstances they would have been very busy," he said.

"It's the normal pattern that businesses will invest in the winter months getting ready for the spring and summer, when they will make their money.

"Coronavirus hit just after they spent their money, so I have a lot of sympathy for those in that predicament.

"I am optimistic that, step-by-step, the approach we are taking will allow the industry to recover, but we have to do so in a manner that is safe, not just for people who live in the area, but we have to make sure it is safe for visitors too.

"I hope that we have been able to rescue enough of this season that 2020 is not a complete write off."

Mr Drakeford said he was satisfied the authorities had done all they could to contain an outbreak of the disease in Wrexham, where 237 workers at the Rowan Foods plant contracted the virus.

But he has written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson asking for a furlough-style scheme to ensure that workers do not feel pressured to carry on working when they show symptoms.

It follows claims that workers at the Rowan plant carried on working because they feared losing their wages if they took time off.

"You have seen it in Leicester as well, with people who live on lower-paid work, if they are sick they have to rely on statutory sick pay, and that acts as a disincentive for them to do the right thing," he said.

Mr Drakeford said he had made two suggestions to Mr Johnson, the one being for a furlough-style scheme where the Government covers the lost income, or the other would be for a statutory requirement that the employer foots the bill.

"I don't think it would cost that much," he said.

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