LOCAL MP Ian Liddell-Grainger has joined more than 40 of his Parliamentary colleagues in asking Chancellor Jeremy Hunt for more help for the hospitality and tourism sector.

The MPs want Mr Hunt to consider business rate reductions and a VAT holiday for tourism businesses to help them survive amid a blizzard of increased running costs.

The sector has received significant Government support since the Covid pandemic, but the MPs say the help needs to be extended to enable tourism businesses to return to full profitability.

Mr Liddell-Grainger, who represents West Somerset and will be the Conservative’s General Election candidate in a new constituency covering the Culm Valley and parishes around Wellington, said despite the Government’s intervention far too many businesses, such as country restaurants and pubs, were still closing.

He said: “The problem has been that many were still trying to get back on their feet after lockdowns when they were hit by rising energy costs and wage bills.

“Country pubs in particularly have suffered a third blow because of rising fuel costs which have discouraged would-be patrons from driving to them.

“Sadly, severe structural damage has already been caused to the hospitality sector and we must do whatever we can to help those businesses still functioning survive.”

The MPs have told the Chancellor that the hospitality and tourism sector is over-taxed to the tune of £2.4 billion, but with the right Government support could grow by six per cent a year, creating more jobs, particularly in rural areas.

Mr Liddell-Grainger said the quality of its landscape was the major factor in attracting tourists to the Westcountry.

“But it is no good bringing them here if we cannot adequately feed, accommodate, or entertain them once they arrive,” he said.

“The Chancellor has it within his power to continue supporting a sector which the Government has already recognised as deserving of help.

“I hope spelling out the challenges it faces in this way will convince him to act.”

A number of local businesses and individuals have been named as finalists in this year’s South West Tourism Excellence Awards.

They include Bossington Hall, near Porlock, in the B&B and guesthouse category, Zoe Furse, from the Aurora Foxes Hotel, Minehead, for the unsung hero award, and Exmoor National Park Authority’s Visitor Centre in Dulverton, in the visitor information category.

The winners will be named in the regional final being held in Exeter University on March 14.

The awards are recognised for their rigour, with independent judges spending months poring over entry submissions, websites, social media, and review sites, as well as carrying out business visits. They then submit reports and recommendations to an independent panel who made the final decisions.

Lawrence Palk, B2B sales director of headline sponsors Wildanet, said: “The South West is a world-class tourism destination with so much to offer, regularly attracting millions of visitors each year.

“The awards are a fantastic stage on which to showcase and celebrate those incredible businesses that are flying the flag for the region.”