Salisbury tourism message: ‘We are open for business’

Prime minister Theresa May has pledged more than £2.5 million to help Salisbury recover after the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

The funding was agreed by the government’s Ministerial Recovery Group, and will also meet any “unexpected costs”.

It includes £1 million to support businesses and boost tourism, plus £1.6 million in special grant payments for Wiltshire Police.

The business and tourism package will include £367,500 for firms affected by the incident, and £200,000 for tourism promotion, including using the GREAT campaign to market the city and encourage visitor numbers.

David Lidington, Cabinet Office minister, said: “The government is committed to supporting this historic British city as it recovers and we will continue to do everything possible to help Salisbury moving forward.

“The message is clear: the city is safe and its shops, restaurants and beautiful sites remain open for business.”

Baroness Jane Scott, the leader of Wiltshire Council, said: “We need to market and promote the city to ensure that national and international tour operators and visitors continue to choose Salisbury as a destination of choice.”

The Guardian reported that takings have been down 20% across city and by 90% in the shopping centre where the Skripals collapsed.

Free parking has been introduced in the cathedral city to further encourage visitors following the nerve agent spy attack, and VisitWiltshire is promoting a ‘business as usual’ message.

The agency has been working with VisitBritain and TIER, the Tourism Industry Response Group, to coordinate feedback from overseas offices.

The city saw a fall in March tourism visits and spend, with some attractions significantly down in the weeks immediately following the attack on March 4. Forward bookings have also dropped.

David Andrews, VisitWiltshire chief executive, said: “Salisbury is a highly popular visitor destination and, employing almost 10% of the local workforce, is a key contributor to the local economy.

“Tourism businesses across the city are operating very much as usual.

“We continue to encourage local, regional, national and international visitors into the city – whether for a day visit or a longer stay. They will receive the warm and hospitable welcome the city is so well known for.”

VisitWiltshire is working with Wiltshire Council, VisitBritain and the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on a tourism recovery plan for implementation once the response phase is over.

Pictured: A police forensics tent at the scene of the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal. A nerve agent was used in the attack on Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

Picture of Salisbury Cathedral on home page: ©VisitBritain/David Noton