Westside’s Sea Life boss: ‘Government should treat us the same as non-essential retail’

One of Westside’s leading bosses has called on the government to allow indoor tourism attractions to fully reopen at the same time as non-essential retail outlets.

Amy Langham is general manager at the National Sea Life Centre and Legoland Discovery Centre Birmingham, which are both owned by Merlin Entertainments.

She explained that Merlin fully supported the national plan to combat COVID-19 and only wanted to re-open its attractions when it is fully safe to do so.

Ms Langham, who also serves as a director of Westside BID, said: “As the government begins to look at reopening the economy, we are calling for entertainment attractions like the National Sea Life Centre and Legoland Discovery Centre to be treated the same as non-essential retail.

“We are fully behind the national effort to overcome COVID-19, but when non-essential retail outlets are allowed to reopen we should be able to open as well.”

Ms Langham also asked that the government maintain the reduction in VAT for the tourism sector at 5% and extend the current business rates holiday.

Her comments come as Merlin launched national a lobbying campaign asking the government to support the UK’s leisure industry.

She said: “Our guests have always been able to spend quality time and create lasting memories with their loved ones at our attractions.

“Now, more than ever, Merlin has an important role to play in promoting the wellbeing of our visitors in a safe and low-risk environment.

“Our attractions can help promote healthier, happier and more connected communities, whilst addressing many of the most pressing health, social and environmental challenges we will face following the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We know it will be an invaluable benefit to these communities for us to reopen as soon as it’s safe to do so.”

Ms Langham added: “To enable our guests to get back to making memories with us as soon possible, we are also asking the government to keep the reduction in the VAT rate at 5 per cent and to extend the business rates holiday.”

Nationally, the whole tourism sector directly employs 3.2 million people and 1.5 million in the supply chain, accounting for 11% of UK employment and 6% of GDP – with revenues bigger than the pharmaceuticals, automotive and aeronautics industries combined.

In the UK alone, Merlin itself directly employs more than 10,000 people, and in the peak season this included 2,500 people in the Midlands. ▪ For more information, visit Merlin at www.merlinentertainments.biz and follow them on Twitter @MerlinEntsNews.

By Steve Dyson

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