The Falkland Islands Government provided details on Wednesday of a range of support schemes designed specifically to mitigate the effects of the global pandemic on tourism businesses, operators, and employees over the next twelve months, as well as prepare the sector to take advantage of renewed demand in 2021 and beyond.
Tourism is an increasingly important sector for the Falkland Islands, which saw an 11% increase in cruise tourist arrivals between over the past five years and a 24% increase in land-based tourists between 2016 and 2018. Prior to Covid-19, the sector generated approximately £16 million in annual sales.
The overall package of support has three main components across eleven schemes. The components are:
First, a time extension for existing Covid-19 support schemes for businesses and individuals. This will have an impact across the whole of the Falkland Islands economy, not just the tourism sector. However, there will also be some amendments to the guidance to meet specific needs of businesses and individuals working in the tourism industry.
Second, a domestic tourism incentive program to help sustain revenues for tourism businesses during the difficult 2020/21 summer season, which will have the added benefit of helping people who live in the Falklands to enjoy what the Islands have to offer.
Third, a range of measures to help the tourism industry prepare to bounce back in 2021/22 and beyond, including small grants and access to deferred loans for eligible businesses; infrastructure improvements; and feasibility studies for longer-term developments and capacity building.
The eleven schemes comprise:
1.Extension of the Business Grant Scheme until 30 September 2021
2.Extension of the Self-Employed Income Supplement Scheme until 30 September 2021
3.Extension of the Job Retention (Furlough) Scheme until 31 March 2021
4.Extension of the Unemployment Subsidy Scheme until 31 March 2021
5.Tourism Recovery Incentive Program (TRIP)
6.Bounce Back Grant Scheme
7.Deferred Repayment Loan Scheme
8.Leisure visitation feasibility study
9.Business visitation feasibility study
10.Feasibility and scoping study for Cape Pembroke lighthouse
11.Feasibility and scoping study for improving the utility of the pontoons at the public jetty
Government officials have consulted extensively with tourism industry stakeholders during the development of these schemes. Detailed data-gathering and analysis have helped inform a range of measures intended to ensure equity across the sector and to recognize that, due to the complexities of the industry, that there cannot be a ‘one size fits all’ approach.
There has also been significant collaboration with the Falkland Islands Tourist Board, the Falkland Islands Tourism Association and the Falkland Islands Development Corporation, in relation to the design, implementation and financing of these schemes. Together these measures demonstrate the government’s commitment to, and support for, a strong tourism sector across the Falkland Islands.
MLA Mark Pollard, portfolio lead for tourism, said: “The Islands Plan states that government will ‘work with the industry to ensure the right infrastructure and economic conditions to support growth’ and I think that this suite of new schemes demonstrates that commitment in action. We have worked closely with the industry to ensure that we considered the depth and the breadth of the challenges facing tourism over the next six months and beyond, to not only help the sector to survive, but to thrive once demand for international tourism resumes. I believe that this far-sighted approach will stand us in good stead for the future and that, as a result, the Falkland Islands will secure its position as a preferred tourist destination for anyone intending to travel to this part of the world.”