Whether it’s having a drink with friends at a local pub, enjoying delicious Devon produce at your favourite restaurant, or resting up in a comfy seaside hotel, we’re surrounded by the best of the UK’s incredible hospitality sector in our corner of the country.

Not only does the industry provide us with great food, drink, and experiences, but also a massive boost to our economy. In East Devon alone, the hospitality sector supports around 6,000 jobs and generates an annual turnover of £281 million.

These hospitality businesses worked their socks off throughout 2023 to put on a consistently great service, while giving so much back to our local economy. 2023 certainly had a difficult set of challenges, not least rising food prices, recruitment challenges, and debt repayments brought about during the pandemic.

I've been looking at these industry challenges as I head up the cross-party group in Parliament for the hospitality and tourism industry. It's a way for MPs – on all political sides – to come together, hear from industry, and put forward ideas to the government.

Ahead of the Autumn Statement, I wrote to the Chancellor to ask him to act on business rates to help the sector grow and thrive. Namely, to extend the 75% relief for hospitality for a further year and to freeze the business rates multiplier. The government's business rates relief for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses enabled many to stay afloat over the last year, when they may have otherwise had to shut up shop. More support – whether on business rates or otherwise – is essential.

Earlier this week, I supported legislation to extend relaxed licensing rules until March 2025, so pubs can continue selling takeaway alcohol with ease. The government's al-fresco drinking and dining reforms have proved a real boost to the trade. Nowhere more so is this is in evidence than on Exmouth's Strand.

Finally, I want to congratulate all those involved in the switch on of Sidmouth’s Christmas Lights. It was a great event for everyone. It is not too early to feel festive.