I was listening to a Bath-BID-sponsored online discussion yesterday in which council leaders spelt out just how important the city’s tourist industry was to their finances.
Along with income from property and car parking, it adds up to 35 million pounds worth of the authority’s annual income.
The pandemic has brought about an international lockdown and paralysed the tourist industry worldwide.
Our World Heritage city is going to take years to recover and there are real concerns the UK’s handling of preventative measures to tackle the coronavirus – and its high level of fatal infections – could mark Great Britain as a toxic brand and make people unsure as to whether this is a safe country to visit.
That’s a national issue but – on a local level – Bath’s commercial heart is eager to start beating again and waits to hear how the Government is going to start opening things up.
To their credit, city councillors are examining ways in which some central streets can be made safer for pedestrians. There are moves to see how traffic can be diverted to allow Milsom Street to be pedestrianised. It would make social distancing easier – especially for the restaurants who would be able to put tables outside.
More on that next week, but l wanted to move onto the problems faced by a major provider in the tourist economy.
Bath Preservation Trust owns and runs four museums in the city – No 1 Royal Crescent, The Museum of Bath Architecture, the Herschel Museum of Astronomy and Beckford’s Tower.
All of them are closed though – according to their Chief Executive Officer, Caroline Kay – the hope is still that they will reopen before the end of the year.
Just what effect their closure is having and how the Trust will deal with the difficulties of social distancing and – ultimately – rebuilding its tourist trade are some of the subjects now covered in an in-depth interview l have done with Caroline – via Zoom.
Apologies for the small amount of ‘freezing’ we had – as our internet connection wavered a little – but every little bit of it is worth listening to.
I asked her how hard they had been hit.