Covid leads to increase in digital investment in Coventry & Warwickshire

Coventry City of Culture

Culture, tourism, hospitality and leisure businesses in Coventry and Warwickshire are investing in digital platforms as alternative revenue streams following the impact of Covid-19, according to a new report.

The Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub’s SmartRegion report from August 18-October 1 has gathered information from the CWLEP’s business engagements and survey data, Coventry City Council, Warwickshire County Council, the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, the West Midlands Combined Authority and the Midlands Engine.

Nearly a third of all the Growth Hub’s business engagements since the national lockdown began in March have been in the tourism sector.

The data reveals businesses have started recognising new opportunities, in particular around providing their services online rather than face-to-face and developing digital content to provide individual packages.

In the accommodation and food services sector, there has been positive signs of investments going into online booking systems and cashless till systems, showing businesses are keen to adapt and protect customers and staff while maintaining safe working practices and social distancing measures.

The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) Specialist Grant programme for the Wider Economy Fund and Visitor Economy Fund has been fully allocated with grants worth £501,214.55 being given to 210 businesses in Coventry and Warwickshire to enable them to respond to the immediate Covid-19 crisis and help them implement their planned projects.

The £188,000 handed out to small businesses in tourist destinations in Coventry and Warwickshire by the Growth Hub as part of the government’s £10 million Kick-starting Tourism Package was vastly over-subscribed which emphasised their need for finance to introduce innovation.

The last full week of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme led to the most positive footfall result of any week since March, with increases in high streets, shopping centres and retail parks from the week before, and footfall in retail parks is now less than 10 per cent lower than last year.

Craig Humphrey, managing director of the CWLEP Growth Hub, said trends were developing around IT and digital projects where businesses are transferring their activity online.

He said: “It is great that culture, hospitality, leisure and tourism businesses are being innovative and taking their services online to make the most of digital opportunities.

“There is a move in the wider region to recognise local tourism businesses and their contribution towards economic growth and jobs which, particularly in Coventry and Warwickshire, is significant.

“Business leaders have described a gradual approach to re-opening, new commercial income streams, promoting their places of interest to local audiences and staycationing.

“But across arts, entertainment and recreation businesses, including some of the region’s visitor attractions, possible redundancies have been announced as tough decision are having to be made.

“It is crucial that Government introduces further interventions during the recovery/restart phase.

“Conference tourism is still badly affected by compulsory closures, visitor attractions are affected by uncertain footfall levels, and continued restrictions around international travel present further challenges to the competitiveness of our visitor economy.

“More financial support is needed to complement the existing available support to enable all types of businesses within the sector to survive, adapt and then flourish as the economy recovers, in order to protect jobs and also ensure the area realises the potential benefits of Coventry being UK City of Culture 2021 and the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games particularly in the cultural and tourism sector.

“In general, more resources are needed to target opportunities for our priority sectors and we need to share experiences with other regions that have high levels of tourism so that we can provide the help that these businesses need.”