James Heappey weekly column

This last week would have been the dream start to the season for the many local businesses in our visitor economy. The weather has been glorious, Somerset has looked at its stunning best and ordinarily our beaches, footpaths, tourist attractions, restaurants and pubs would have been absolutely heaving. Instead, however, everyone involved in the promotion of tourism in Somerset has been desperately discouraging people from visiting.

Our holiday park, hotel and B&B owners have all been incredibly supportive of the need to keep the tourists away, even though for almost all of them this spells near disaster for their business. I am very clear from everything that those in the industry have sent to me over the last two weeks, that whilst they have done the right thing now to protect those of us that live here, we in Government must make sure that they are protected from the economic hardship which will undoubtedly follow for these businesses.

When all of this is over, there will be many more times of sunshine and Somerset dazzling. When those weeks come, we will need all of the fantastic businesses that make up our visitor economy to still be there ready to host the millions who come to our amazing county.

I am going to make sure that the industry is heard by ministerial colleagues in Government and when this is all over, we must all make sure we tell everybody who will listen that Somerset will be open for business and keen to welcome you back.

We just need you to stay away for the time being.