James spoke during a debate on support for the tourism sector after the Covid-19 lockdown.
He highlighted that tourism is a vital part of West Norfolk's economy with a visitor economy worth around £500 million with tourism-related jobs making up a fifth of West Norfolk’s employment.
2019 was record year for tourism in Norfolk and this was meant to be another year of growth. But the Covid-19 lockdown has hit the area hard and disproportionately affected young people who hold around a third of travel and tourism jobs, compared to just 12% of jobs across the wider economy.
James welcomed the bold package of support the government put in place for tourism and hospitality business including furlough, grants, business rate holiday, Eat Out to Help Out, and the cut in VAT to 5%. They provided a lifeline and desperately needed cash flow but despite being able to trade in late summer that hasn’t mitigated the time when firms had no income - when 70% of business activity normally takes place from April-October
He supported the calls from the sector to extend the business rates holiday and cut in VAT.
During the debate he:
- continued to encourage people to support tourism in our coastal and rural areas
- recommended helping businesses by removing red tape and supported waiving or extending the 28-day farmland rule so that firms have more flexibility to take advantage of the home tourism market. This was proposal Deepdale Backpackers & Camping proposed to him.
- championed the Norfolk and Suffolk proposal to become one of the new Tourism Zones where much work has been done by Visit the East of England working with local authorities and tourism bodies. This should focus on being most sustainable tourism destination, importantly with a strong sector skills offer for young people.