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How strongly will East Anglia emerge from lockdown?

PUBLISHED: 10:47 28 May 2020 | UPDATED: 12:06 28 May 2020

Visitors enjoying the sunshine in Southwold as coronavirus lockdown rules begin to ease  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Visitors enjoying the sunshine in Southwold as coronavirus lockdown rules begin to ease Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Archant

Key sectors like Norfolk and Suffolk’s tourism industry will need to overcome big practical and emotional issues as we move out of coronavirus lockdown, an expert has warned.

A woman in a mask walks along Southwold's prom Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNA woman in a mask walks along Southwold's prom Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Toby Wilson, a partner at accountants Lovewell Blake, believes the region’s business sectors are well set to lead a post-virus recovery – but some will face particular challenges.

“Tourism is a huge part of the Norfolk and Suffolk economy, and with overseas travel looking impossible for the foreseeable future, there is a big appetite in the sector to take advantage of a new staycation boom,” he said.

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But practical and emotional issues include providing a safe experience for visitors and residents. “Will understandable nervousness in local communities lead to an antipathy towards visitors, acting as a brake on recovery?” he asked.

However, the counties’ economy is structurally less volatile than many, with a business landscape led by “dynamic and resourceful” individuals”, he said.

A blue sign installed on Southwold promenade stating social distancing guidelines  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNA blue sign installed on Southwold promenade stating social distancing guidelines Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

“Local economies are going to need business sectors which can emerge from lockdown more or less unscathed,” he said.

“The county didn’t experience as big a crash in 2008 as many,” he pointed out. Evidence suggested that the region would be cushioned to some extent this time around too.

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“This is largely because the types of industry which dominate our local economy are robust – with some exceptions.”

Toby Wilson of Lovewell Blake  Picture: NEWMAN ASSOCIATES PRToby Wilson of Lovewell Blake Picture: NEWMAN ASSOCIATES PR

Food and drink production and retail was a big driver of economic activity, he said. “With the issue of food security and self-sufficiency climbing up the political agenda, the food and drink industry is well placed to continue its leading role as a foundation in rebuilding the wider economy,” he said.

Energy was more of a “mixed picture”, with the collapse of the price of oil and falling demand due to the pandemic. But the crisis had relatively little effect on the renewables sector, he pointed out.

The tech sector had been able to carry on “more or less as normal, although concerns remain around long-term customer resilience, he said.

Anecdotally construction appeared to be held back by supply chain issues and concerns about safe operating procedures. The housing market was reliant on consumer confidence which could be dampened by the rise in unemployment.

“We shouldn’t underestimate the size of the challenge ahead,” he warned, but felt the region had “a better chance” than many others of overcoming it.

Toby Wilson will be part of an expert business panel joining our business and politics editor Richard Porritt for an open house webinar. The panel will look at how businesses in the east can successfully come out of lockdown and ensure the economy bounces back. To join, register here



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