OxLEP has today (14 February) announced significant levels of financial support going into the county’s visitor economy following the closure of its latest grant scheme, created to help trigger a positive impact in a sector majorly affected by the Covid-19 outbreak.
OxLEP Business’ visitor economy grant scheme last month directed just over £660,000 into Oxfordshire businesses who either operate in or support tourism and visitor experiences, with companies from right across the county benefiting from the latest round of investment – part of a concerted programme of activity supporting the visitor economy.
The organisation has played a pivotal role for Oxfordshire businesses since the pandemic, providing both financial and practical interventions for the county’s business community at a time of dramatic need.
Between April 2021 and March last year, OxLEP Business provided over 6,000 hours of business support – valued at over £3,500,000 – with 388 jobs safeguarded or created through engagement with them, some of which were in the tourism industry.
Of the £660,000 visitor economy grant scheme, around £97,000 of funding went towards businesses operating within performing arts and the theatre, close to £93,000 has been invested in pubs, clubs and bars with about £56,000 of grants supporting Oxfordshire’s restaurants and cafes.
A further £82,000 will support sports and wellbeing-focused organisations in the county, just over £67,000 will leverage opportunities for travel agencies and tour operator activities, with £39,000 supporting independent retailers in Oxfordshire who directly work with tourism delivery within the county.
Other grants are supporting nature reserve activities, youth hostels and collective accommodation locations, the delivery of festivals in Oxfordshire, plus backing the work of Oxfordshire-based cider, beer and wine manufacturers.
Around 28% of grants were awarded to Oxford-based companies, with 19% heading to Vale of White Horse-based organisations and around 14% of grants going to businesses based both within West Oxfordshire and Cherwell districts.
Around a quarter of grants were awarded to South Oxfordshire-based tourism-focused businesses.
A panel made-up of OxLEP representatives and independent business figures reviewed a range of applications to the grant scheme, which was heavily-subscribed following its launch last autumn.
OxLEP will monitoring funding impacts over the coming months, with outcomes of the grants set to include; supporting businesses to generate more effective digital activity to attract more visitors, upgrades to on-site facilities to create better guest experiences and accessibility, plus helping to create greater spectator and community participation opportunities at visitor locations.
The visitor economy grant scheme is part of OxLEP’s Visitor Economy Renaissance Programme – a £1.64 million programme of activity assisting the recovery of Oxfordshire’s visitor economy.
The programme – which is being supported through funding secured by OxLEP via the government’s Contain Outbreak Management Fund – aims to back the sector’s ongoing re-emergence from Covid-19 through a variety of positive interventions allowing the strengthening of the sector post-pandemic, as well as maintaining and retaining consumer confidence for the industry.
OxLEP worked in partnership with Oxfordshire County Council to facilitate the funding process of the grant scheme.
It is supported by the county’s two destination management organisations (DMOs), Experience Oxfordshire and Cotswolds Tourism DMO who are delivering a number of marketing campaigns aimed at rebuilding confidence in Oxfordshire’s tourism locations as being Covid-safe destinations, as well as encouraging visitor economy-related spend too.
Helen Brind – Growth Hub Manager at OxLEP – said: “We are delighted to be able to offer such significant support to the visitor economy, backing the sector’s re-emergence from the pandemic.
“Pre-Covid 19, our visitor economy was worth around 10% of Oxfordshire’s overall GVA, with the county attracting around 30 million visitors per year, so it’s very important that we have been able to provide such a positive intervention to a critical sector.
“Our grant scheme will support numerous different areas within tourism in Oxfordshire with all areas of the county benefitting from investment – this reflects and recognises that we have multiple locations in the county that rely on a successful visitor economy.”
Though the grant scheme is now closed, OxLEP Business is encouraging tourism-focused companies to speak with them to access other support.
Helen added: “It is also important to add that our support isn’t just focused on grant opportunities. Our wider business support has made a positive impact across this sector, so we would encourage businesses operating in the visitor economy to complete our popular business support tool and sign-up to our visitor economy business support workshops, currently being delivered across Oxfordshire.”