08 May 2020

Over 200 people from the Sussex tourism sector virtually came together this week to discuss the myriad of challenges facing the sector during the COVID-19 crisis. ‘Survive’, the first of three webinars planned to support the industry, included experts from communications, finance, legal and HR as well as a representatives from local tourism businesses across Sussex.

Three Sussex MPs (Andrew Griffith, Arundel, Caroline Ansell, Eastbourne and Sally-Ann Hart, Hastings and Rye) attending the webinar promised to take some clear messages resulting from the discussion back to Government, including:


  • The need for more clarity and guidance for the next steps
  • Sector will need ongoing support where it is not able to operate at full capacity, including the need for a flexible furlough scheme
  • Support for Gatwick and surrounding area, and the supply chains
  • Support for domestic tourism to create consumer confidence
  • Recognition of the sector’s importance as a driver for recovery


With tourism at its heart, the area has been hit hard by the crisis. A strong call for working across the whole of Sussex was made by many on the call and was heard by the partners who curated the project (Experience West Sussex Partnership, Sussex Chamber of Commerce, Coast to Capital Growth Hub and South Downs National Park Authority) as well as council economy teams and Sussex businesses.


A commitment was made on the webinar by Experience West Sussex Partnership and East Sussex County Council tourism representatives to speak next week for recovery planning discussions.


We are delighted to be collaborating with partners to support the visitor economy in the region to address the challenges together,” commented Kat Beer, Sustainable Tourism Lead at South Downs National Park Authority. “We hope we can strengthen local connections and help support business to get through this unprecedented time”.


Technical advice from panel experts specialising in HR, legal, finance and communications presented their view of the current situation and answered questions on media, financial support, furlough scheme implementation, redundancy planning and legal regulations around bookings, cancellations and refunds.


The business operators and owners, including Stephen Mannion from Arundel Castle, Simon Bassett from 2XS and Paul Bromley from Bluebell Railway discussed their challenges and shared their plans for recovery. The session was attended by Visit Britain, who commented on the usefulness of the webinar – adding that they would share with other regions in the tourism industry.


Nigel Lynn, Chief Executive of Arun District Council and Chair of Experience West Sussex Partnership, commented: “I am acutely aware that this current time presents the most challenging situation our tourism businesses have ever had to face and is compounded by the ongoing uncertainty and amount of unknowns in trying to plan for ‘what next’. We are working tirelessly with our partners, across the sector and for businesses to provide advice and support.


“These webinars provide space for the industry to talk with each other, encourage collaboration, innovation and repurposing as well as the opportunity to explore what the future landscape of tourism might look like.”


The webinars are a joint venture between Experience West Sussex Partnership, Sussex Chamber of Commerce, Coast to Capital Growth Hub and South Downs National Park Authority, and have been designed to pull together important information and advice for tourism businesses across Sussex. The group are also gathering ‘sector intelligence’ to feedback to relevant bodies and the Government so that they are aware of the challenges facing the Sussex tourism sector.


Jonathan Sharrock, Chief Executive at Coast to Capital, said: “We are pleased to have had the opportunity to support the Survive webinar in collaboration with Experience West Sussex Partnership, Sussex Chamber of Commerce and South Downs National Park Authority. We are continuing a strong dialogue with partners on how we can use our Local Industrial Strategy as a Regional Recovery Plan and I look forward to hearing updates from the next events.”


Ana Christie, Chief Executive of Sussex Chamber of Commerce, added: “This is an extremely challenging time for all businesses. The economic impact of Covid-19 is already acute, not just in terms of jobs but also the opportunity cost of investment and business growth. It is so important we collaborate to ensure the tourism, hospitality and leisure sectors are heard and challenges addressed by Government.


“It is critical that Government takes action, working with our partners and businesses across Sussex, to develop, fund and implement a programme of economic relief and investment.”


A resounding agreement at the end of the session was, that whilst understandable that businesses are in firefighting mode, they must make time to plan for the future and look at ways to innovate and collaborate across the sector. More of this will feature in the next two webinars.


You can access the first webinar with associated notes and comments, as well as information on the next two here


Experience West Sussex Partnership


The Experience West Sussex Partnership is a destination partnership delivering collective value through leadership, inspiration and collaboration for the benefit of the West Sussex visitor economy. The partnership is funded by local council partners and the county council for county-wide delivery of tourism projects through ExperienceWestSussex.com.


The partnership is made up of Adur District Council, Arun District Council, Chichester District Council, Crawley Borough Council, Horsham District Council, Mid Sussex District Council, Worthing Borough Council, West Sussex County Council and the Coastal West Sussex Partnership.


As well as being a central voice for the region on tourism and the visitor economy, the partnership delivers local business support and creative marketing campaigns to attract visitors to the area.

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