The Leisure Fund will make available funds of between £100,000 and £10m per company. Under the terms of the agreement, companies are entitled to two six-month breaks in repayments allowing them to use that money to invest in their businesses.
Funding is to be made available for any operator in the leisure sector, including pub, restaurant and hotel companies. VisitEngland, the national tourism body, has worked on the Leisure Fund to provide insight into what funding is needed and where.
Andrew Taylor, head of leisure for commercial banking at NatWest and RBS, said: "We have listened to the needs of our leisure clients and tried to design something unique to support the needs of this particular industry.
"Leisure is a key industry and one that could play a massive role in the recovery which is why we have set up a team of specialist relationship managers who operate across the sector. Generating around £97bn of GDP and nearly two million jobs, the industry is vital for the UK economy and we are dedicated to supporting leisure businesses."
Visit England chief executive James Berresford said: "It is great to see that NatWest and RBS have taken such steps to help support the leisure industry.
"Whilst over the past decade the quality of the visitor experience in England has excelled, we need to ensure that we keep on top of our game to beat off competition from overseas destinations.
"Our reputation as a top quality must-see destination relies on our ability to provide high quality experiences across all sectors of the industry. Continual re-investment is therefore paramount to achieving consistency – something which is vital in securing repeat visitors and those we are welcoming for the first time."
Meanwhile, research from 550 firms from across the leisure sector by NatWest and RBS has found that 30% don’t feel they invested sufficiently in 2012 to remain competitive, while 55% feel investment in refurbishment or new equipment would make a positive impact on their business. One in four leisure firms feel a lack of investment is resulting in a loss of business.
Asked how optimistic they felt about 2013, 48% believed their business would grow in the next year, with 73% either optimistic or very optimistic about 2013.
According to the survey, 65% of leisure businesses believe that a capital repayment holiday would be useful to their business.
Taylor said: "It’s great to see a sense of optimism returning to the leisure market.
"In terms of investment it is vital to be able to invest in the quality of your assets, probably more so than other industries. But it is the long term impact which is potentially most damaging, as putting off investment in the short term could end up with businesses facing large capital expenditure bills in the future."
According to the survey, 74% of leisure businesses have not made any additional allowances for bad weather conditions this summer, despite nearly half of respondents noting July and August as their most profitable months. Taylor said: "The summer months are a lifeline for many leisure businesses but as we saw last year – which was the second wettest on record for the UK – it is easy for the weather to turn the tables and force people inside.
"As such, perhaps more leisure businesses should consider making financial provisions for this eventuality and consider investment in weather-proofing their business in order to provide an excellent experience to visitors year-round."
The Morning Advertiser
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