A NATIONAL coastal tourism body estimates that the value of the industry could be almost halved after Government lockdown restrictions ease.

The National Coastal Tourism Academy gave evidence to the Government’s Digital, Culture and Media Committee as part of a wider inquiry into the impact of Covid-19 on the tourism sector.

Samantha Richardson, academy director, said: “Assuming retail can reopen June 1 and hospitality businesses July 4, we forecast that the economic loss of coastal tourism spend in England for 2020 will be £7.96bn.

“Nearly 74 per cent of businesses are temporarily closed and when they do open, most expect to operate at between 40 and 60 per cent capacity, squeezing profit margins further.

“The peak months of July and August are crucial to coastal businesses, this is when nearly 30 per cent generate more than half their annual turnover.”

But, she said, latest research showed there was a strong demand for breaks to the coast post-lockdown.

The academy said: “The increase in interest could provide an opportunity for the coast to attract entirely new audiences and give businesses a chance to tackle the problem of seasonality as many consider opening longer into the winter season to recoup losses.

“To achieve this though, businesses and coastal destinations will need to develop new products and experiences.”

Copeland Council recently revealed its ambitions to develop Whitehaven with its £15 million bid to the Government’s Future High Streets Fund.

Mike Starkie, Copeland mayor, said: “It is a fantastic example of exactly how we’re pushing the future of coastal tourism in our principle town.

“Our vision to create a restaurant, cycle hub and accommodation to attract tourists to the area, bringing much needed revenue to the Copeland economy. Investment in our coastal towns like Whitehaven is needed now more than ever.”

Ms Richardson provided a series of recommendations to help the long-term recovery of coastal towns, including providing as much notice and guidance as possible before reopening, ongoing financial support for businesses and destinations, and a minimum three-year recovery programme.