This Saturday is National Hospitality Day. And it comes at a time when it has never been more important for us to show support for our favourite pubs, restaurants, hotels, and cafés.
These businesses are the backbone of Devon’s economy. Their supply chains provide so many local jobs and livelihoods.
I have had countless conversations and more recently face-to-face meetings with many business owners in this sector and they left me in no doubt about how challenging it has been over the last 18 months.
Not that I was in any real doubt. When the pandemic restrictions started last March, it was clear how damaging they would be to those working in hospitality.
The government recognised this and introduced measures to help keep the wolf from the door.
These measures included support grants and a business rates holiday. On top of this was the cutting of the VAT from 20% to 5% for those businesses in the hospitality, holiday accommodation and visitor attraction sectors.
This VAT cut was introduced in July 2020 and was extended until October 2021, when a rate of 12.5% will kick in until the end of March 2022.
I know reducing the rate of VAT has acted as a lifeline to many business owners in my constituency when it came to reopening once again and to drive more bookings.
The government also removed much red tape by getting local councils to allow businesses to construct outdoor areas for eating and drinking. That helped many places increase capacity as well as still observing rules on social distancing. It was a real joy to see al-fresco eating and drinking in many parts of East Devon and I hope it is here to stay, weather permitting!
We all have a part to play in supporting the vital hospitality sector in our local area. I urge you to get behind National Hospitality Day this weekend by enjoying a meal out or by visiting many of the great attractions we have on our doorstep.
This column first appeared in the Exmouth Journal on Wednesday 15th September 2021 and in the Sidmouth Herald and Midweek Herald later in the week.