09 April 2020

In the run up to the long Easter Bank Holiday weekend, this blog will focus on the huge impact which COVID-19 is having on businesses in Brighton and across West Sussex, in particular in the leisure and tourism industry which has been severely hit.

Last year, more people than ever were considering an ‘Eastercation’ in the UK with Brighton being one of the top seaside locations to visit.  This year however, the 2020 holiday season will not see the same kick-start it experienced last year missing a potential boost to the UK economy of £1.8 billion


The city of Brighton & Hove is an internationally recognised destination in its own right and boasts a strong visitor-based economy.  Before COVID-19 Greater Brighton was one of the fastest-growing city regions in the UK, rated in the top five for jobs growth in the past five years and one of the best places to start a new business.  


A striking picture


It is obvious to see from the pictures of deserted high streets, empty beaches across our beautiful coastline and closed tourist hot spots across West Sussex, the huge impact that is currently being felt by the leisure and tourism sector and here are just a few of the stories we have heard.


“A major resort on the South Coast have had to cancel all bookings and are taking the difficult decision to lay off staff.”


“A bar and restaurant company in Brighton have seen all their income disappear. The company was in the middle of expansion but thankfully was able to back out of opening a third site. They are now focused on diversifying their revenue by developing merchandise and branded beer to sell.”


“A theme park operator based in Brighton has told us that COVID-19 has had a huge effect on the business with zero cash flow. The owner is using his own money to support employees until being reimbursed from furloughing.”


We are coming together with key partners in the tourism and leisure sector in West Sussex to discuss the immense challenge being faced and details about a webinar on this topic will be launched shortly.


“The travel and tourism sector has been battling the impacts of the coronavirus outbreak since January this year, with the current fallout causing significant upheaval across the globe for aviation, as well as inbound, outbound and domestic tourism. In West Sussex the tourism sector is worth around £2 billion and supports more than 37,000 jobs.  Industry discussion is mixed regarding recovery timeframes, what the future will look like and who will be winners and losers. Views range from a very upbeat and optimistic V shape bounce back to a very sobering L shaped economic depression that will dwarf the downturns from the 2008 recession and 9/11.”


“For destinations, it is an opportunity to rethink and plan what tourism is wanted, to be more sustainable, work for the local communities and be kinder to the planet. Domestic tourism is going to be a dominating strength for destinations for at least a couple of years but what the nuances will actually look like, it is too early to say. Outdoors, escapism, wellbeing and ability to book individual units will undoubtedly do very well in the first throws of freedom.”


Jo Williams - Partnership Manager (Experience West Sussex Partnership)




Experience West Sussex - West Sussex 2018 Infographic

The impact on the event economy in Brighton


The full economic impact of COVID 19 is yet to be understood in the event economy of Brighton.  So far, Brighton Marathon Weekend, Brighton Festival, The Great Escape, Brighton Fringe, Brighton Pride, The London to Brighton Bike Ride and countless other events in independent venues across the city have all been cancelled or postponed.  Around 40% of the economy of Brighton & Hove is either focused on the visitor economy or the creative arts and these are amongst the worst hit sectors by the pandemic.


This week, PLATF9RM ran an online event to discuss the short term support and long term prospects of the event industry in Brighton.  Panellists described the challenges the sector was facing and highlighted that help to keep the sector solvent and interventions to protect the supply chain were vital so the sector is not mortally affected and can pick up again when the lockdown is eased.  However, planning for that was proving to be incredibly difficult without certainty from Government on how long restrictions would remain in place creating significant issues both in terms of cash flow and logistics.  It was thought that large scale social gathering would be the last thing to be eased and it was difficult for the sector to feel optimistic about the future, in particular the impact on the skilled people who work in the sector, including freelancers and microbusinesses who are the least helped by the Government’s business support package.  Whilst companies were understandably focusing on their immediate survival it was agreed that coordination on a model for recovery would soon become the priority to ensure the sector can adapt, potentially utilising the city’s digital and innovation strengths, adjust to a new economy and prevent the demise of this vital sector.  


Watch the full webinar here.


More to come


For future blogs I want to focus on other key sectors such as our agriculture sector and glasshouse economy and on the impact on SMEs and how our new Backing Business Grant support is starting to help these businesses. 


The team and Board is thinking hard about the following and we will report further when things start to become clearer:


  • The potential challenges that will be faced on the return to work.  What is the impact of blanket restrictions on working people?  What measures do we need to put in place to support a quick return to work in our region?
  • The investment and support will be needed to support recovery.  Is this infrastructure? Or help for people to retrain? Or sector interventions? How to protect business confidence?


We want to hear from you


We need as much up-to-date business intelligence as possible so please:



Jonathan Sharrock,

Chief Executive at Coast to Capital

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