Scarborough SEA LIFE owner calls on government to support leisure industry

The manager of Scarborough's SEA LIFE sanctuary says the indoor attraction has an important role to play in the community when it is allowed to reopen.

By George Buksmann
Thursday, 18th February 2021, 12:04 pm
Updated Thursday, 18th February 2021, 12:08 pm

Merlin Entertainments’ Yorkshire attractions are calling on the Government to allow them to reopen at the same time as non-essential retail when the national lockdown ends and it is safe to do so.

Following the end of the second lockdown before Christmas, indoor entertainment centres had to remain closed, despite their multitude of COVID-19 safety precautions, and outdoor entertainment centres, whilst being able to remain open, were only able to do so in a very limited capacity, with accommodation and many of their indoor attractions being closed.

The attractions operator is calling for indoor entertainment centres to be treated the same as non-essential retail, the tourism VAT reduction to be maintained and the business rates holiday to be extended.

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The indoor attraction has 200,000 visitors annually.

Merlin Entertainments fully supports the national plan to combat Covid-19 and only wants to re-open its attractions when it is fully safe to do so.

Among the comprehensive COVID-secure precautions in place at Merlin’s attractions are pre-booking, temperature checks, social distancing and the wearing of masks by guests and team members.

Andy Turner, General Manager of Scarborough SEA LIFE and Marine Sanctuary, said: “We are fully behind the national effort to overcome COVID-19. But as the Government begins the review of lockdown and looks to reopen the economy we are calling for indoor entertainment attractions like our own to be treated the same as non-essential retail - and when they are allowed to reopen we should be able to open as well.

“Our guests have always been able to spend quality time and create lasting memories with their loved ones at our attractions and now, more than ever, Merlin has an important role to play in promoting the wellbeing of our visitors in a safe and low-risk environment.

Aquarist Rose German with one of the Common Harbour Seals.

“Our attractions can help promote healthier, happier and more connected communities, whilst addressing many of the most pressing health, social and environmental challenges we will face following the COVID-19 pandemic. We know it will be an invaluable benefit to these communities for us to reopen as soon as it’s safe to do so.

“Our attractions are fully COVID-secure and have a range of safety precautions in place, including pre-booking, temperature checks and social distancing throughout.

“We are also asking the Government to keep the reduction in the VAT rate to five per cent and to extend the business rates holiday.

“We are a proud member of the local community providing employment and boosting the local economy. We also have strong links with local colleges and universities, providing on the job learning for academics and helping to facilitate valuable research studies.

Aquarist Rose German during the centre's annual animal count.

“We look forward to being able to welcome back our guests as soon as we are able to do so.”

Nationally, the tourism sector employs 3.2m people directly and 1.5m in the supply chain, accounting for 11% of UK employment and 6% of GDP. It is a vital part of the UK’s economy, with revenues bigger than that of the pharmaceuticals, automotive and aeronautics industries combined.

In the UK alone, Merlin employs more than 10,000 people directly.

Locally, Scarborough SEA LIFE and Marine Sanctuary supports approximately 30 jobs and welcomes more than 200,000 visits each year. It has strong links with local colleges and universities, providing on the job learning for academics and helping to facilitate valuable research studies.

It also rescues, rehabilitates and releases between 20 and 30 seals each year, working closely with the RSPCA and the Marine Divers Association.