Kickstart grants for small tourism businesses in England: how ACT can help

Sep 16, 20203D virtual tours, Still photography, Websites

Update (13/01/2021)

We’re no stranger to increased restrictions, both personally and professionally at the moment. We find ourselves in the midst of the strictest lockdown since March 2020. As a result, each of the four national governments has increased grant money. With this in mind, we will update this blog with updated information in blue. As always, we urge you to stay connected to us at ACT Studios. Now, more than ever, is the time to consider how your self-catering business is presented online. 

Update (03/11/2020).

Westminster has recently announced that England will go into lockdown for 1 month on 5th November 2020. This news comes alongside Wales currently being in lockdown. Scotland and Northern Ireland have adopted a 5 tier system. The impact of these recent changes has proven a particular challenge for the holiday rental industry. We have updated this blog, first published 16th September 2020. The aim of this update is to promote new grants and financial support available to self-caterers. Please note that all updates will be coloured red.

2020 has been a challenging time for everyone. The hospitality industry has been hit hard. Holiday accommodation owners in particular have experienced significant upheaval. With rules and regulations continuing to change and evolve, the uncertainty of what lies ahead makes it difficult for us all to plan in the usual way. So it’s good to know help is available for owners in England with the Kickstart grant. But if you’re confused by how to apply or where to start, we’ve collated some information to help you.

Kickstart grant – UK government

The UK government has allocated £10 million in England to help boost the tourism industry. This was announced in July 2020. It is set to award small businesses between £1000 to £5000.

You do have to act quickly when applications open (I’ve seen it likened to getting tickets to see your favourite band when they announce their tour dates).  Demand, as you can imagine, is extremely high. Some regions (eg Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly) have already closed off applications.

To find out what’s out there, the first thing to note is the grant’s name can vary. It is most commonly referred to as the Kickstart grant, but is also known as the Recovery grant.

TOP TIP:  search online for grants in your area with “Kickstart tourism grant *insert local authority name here*”. For example kickstart tourism grant Cumbria.

Update (03/11/2020) – we have read reports that lots of applicants have still not heard back/received their grant money. This means decisions are still being made. We recommend applying if you haven’t already. Further, if you were previously rejected there is no harm in trying again. Where a second lockdown poses further difficulties for your business, be sure to make that clear in your second application as it may change the outcome. 

Update (13/01/2020) – Kickstart grants don’t appear to be the coined term for this funding anymore. As such you may have noticed that Westminster has redacted this specific funding to make way for the new funding recently announced. More on that below. 

Other types of funding available

Update (13/01/2020) – The four nations have announced £500 million of additional support for the industry. This is a much-needed cash injection for businesses of all sizes at the moment. They are dealt with by your local authority and not named under any one term. This has everything to do with your rateable value, which will determine exactly how much you are eligible to claim for. The sad reality is some councils will place enhanced criteria that exclude holiday rental properties – so bear that in mind. Conversely, some council regions will find the budget to offer other types of funding (take a look at this). Our takeaway advice for the new funding announcements is don’t hold back and wait, get in there as soon as possible. This will set you in the right stead to have your claim approved – competition will be rife. 

Bounce back loans: the scheme helps small and medium-sized businesses to borrow between £2,000 and up to 25% of their turnover. The maximum loan available is £50,000. The government guarantees 100% of the loan and there won’t be any fees or interest to pay for the first 12 months. After 12 months the interest rate will be 2.5% a year. The scheme is open to applications until 31 January 2021. Please be aware this is a loan, rather than a grant. Please consult a financial advisor before applying.

CBILS loans: this is funding aimed at small to medium sized businesses. Finance is available up to £5 million. The government guarantees 80% of the finance to the lender and pays interest and any fees for the first 12 months. The scheme is open until 31 January 2021. Please be aware this is a loan, rather than a grant. Please consult a financial advisor before applying. 

Furlough: furlough has been re-introduced in England to cover the second lockdown. It is not clear, at the time of writing, whether Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland will be able to benefit from the second introduction of furlough. This will likely become clearer in days to come. 


How to apply

The Kickstart grants are allocated by your local authority. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to apply:

  1. Use Google to search for your local authority’s Kickstart grant scheme.
  2. Check you are eligible.
  3. If it asks for a breakdown of what you are going to spend the money on, contact your supplier and ask for a detailed quote.
  4. Download the application pack and dedicate time to completing this.
  5. Send the application, with supporting evidence to the named contact.

We have heard varying reports of how long decisions take to make. It can take up to 2 weeks to hear back.

Update (03/11/2020) – many of the bodies responsible for giving grants require more than 1 quote to justify the work planned. Our advice is to be as prepared as possible, even if the application process doesn’t require more than one quotation. If possible you should try to obtain 3 quotations for the same job. If you haven’t already received a quote from ACT Studios, please get in touch. We will be sure to handle any queries in a timely manner.

How ACT Studios can help you complete your application

You will be required to prove how your planned spend will benefit your business. Most local authorities also require you to submit a specific quote before allocating any money. The money has to be spent on “specialist professional advice such as human resources, legal or financial expertise, to adopt new technology and online systems or to purchase new equipment.” The services ACT Studios offer fit this category perfectly. Now could be the ideal time to create (or update) a new website with dynamic photography and high-quality 3D tours.

We will help you create a marketing ‘tool belt’ that will drive in new bookings and generate profit for your business. The team at ACT spend time getting to know you, so we can understand your business, and its challenges. If you need a quotation for our services to use as supporting evidence for your grant application, we will provide one in a timely manner. So you won’t miss any important deadlines.

Here’s how investing in a new or improved website, professional photography and 3D tours by ACT Studios can help your business:

Bespoke websites

Sextons Place Website by ACT Studios Simplifying the grants available for Holiday lets in UK

Your business will benefit from the specialist expertise of the ACT Studios team. Each website we deliver is unique to fit your business model. Your website will feature our bespoke design, our professional photography and careful imaging, content creation and SEO; together with any eCommerce and booking engine integrations required.  A website by ACT  will benefit your business by:

  • Increasing visibility: content is Search Engine Optimised (SEO) to help you stand out and reach a wider audience.
  • Generating revenue growth: enabling potential guests to find all the information they need gives them confidence to ‘book now’. By facilitating this on your own website, they can do this whatever time of day (or night), so you don’t miss out. It also gives guests an easy way to book direct, which means you ultimately pay less commission to online travel agents (OTAs) and other well-known booking websites. Ensuring your website is consistently updated with new, intriguing content also encourages previous guests to follow your news and book repeat visits.
  • Building trust and authenticity: having your own safe and secure website helps to reassure potential guests that you are a genuine, legitimate business.
  • Promoting the area and other local businesses: which in turn creates reciprocal, cost-effective marketing opportunities. Including information that will enhance the guest experience – such as local restaurants, cafes, attractions and events – means you provide links to other businesses. Hopefully in return they will provide links to your website too. This helps build relationships, and working closely with other service-providers can enhance up-selling options to further generate revenue growth in your location.


Simplifying the grants available for Holiday lets in UK

The creation and delivery of professional, high quality, still photography is the basis on which ACT Studios was originally founded. And it continues to play a huge role in our work today. We pride ourselves on capturing images that tell a story, we call it visual storytelling. ACT Studios believe that visual storytelling is essential when it comes to marketing your business. Not just because a picture is worth a thousand words. But because we have seen first-hand how effective strong imagery can be in increasing your bottom line. Investing in excellent photography by ACT will benefit your business in the following ways:

  • It will make your property stand out. Getting noticed is the first step. Once you have peoples’ attention they want to find out more. This is what entices them to do their research and click to find out more. Without investing in outstanding imagery, your business falls at the first hurdle.
  • You will have your own catalogue of stunning, professional images to use across all of your chosen marketing platforms. You can use them on social media, in your own marketing emails, on any booking websites that you list on, in printed ads, flyers and more. The choice is yours.
  • Carefully reflecting the experience you offer enables potential guests to picture themselves there. This is what encourages guests to book.

3D virtual tours

Simplifying the grants available for Holiday lets in UK

Setting your business aside from the rest is a challenge. 3D virtual tours are an ingenious way of achieving this. Guests can virtually step into your property and immerse themselves in it. They can get a real feel for what you have to offer and build an affiliation before (and after) booking. The benefits of 3D tours are:

  • Guests see exactly what your property provides. This gives them the confidence to book your property above another one which doesn’t have a 3D tour.
  • They’re especially beneficial for specific target audiences. Families with young children can see the bedroom layouts; guests who have limited mobility can assess how suitable the property is for them; if a member of the booking group has special needs (eg autism) – being able to prepare by managing expectations can play a big part in securing bookings.

Get in touch

If you are interesting in working with ACT Studio please get in touch, we’d love to have a no obligation chat with you.