MPs from Dorset and the New Forest have backed calls for enhanced support for the tourism and hospitality industries.

The sectors are already suffering in the coronavirus pandemic and are likely to be among the last to return to normal as the UK lockdown is slowly lifted in the coming months.

Bournemouth East MP Tobias Ellwood, north Dorset MP Simon Hoare and New Forest West MP Sir Desmond Swayne are among more than 80 members of parliament to sign a letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

It calls for numerous measures including the extension of the government’s furlough scheme beyond the lockdown.

The scheme currently pays 80 per cent of wages up to a maximum of £2,500 for those unable to work during the lockdown.

But there are fears the scheme will be needed for longer for tourism and hospitality industries, which are likely to miss out on all of the lucrative spring and summer trading months.

The letter says: “As hospitality and tourism are expected to be among the slowest areas to resume to usual levels of activity and income, a significant extension to this scheme would provide protection for those businesses in these sectors.”

MPs are also calling for an extension of the business rate relief threshold up to £150,000, which would allow more businesses to benefit and to become eligible for grant support.

They would also like to see reduced VAT for the sectors, more flexible furlough arrangements and time to prepare for re-opening.

The letter goes on: “The tourism and hospitality sectors play a significant role in the UK economy. These were the first sectors to be significantly adversely impacted by the COVID-19 lockdown and they are likely to be the last sectors to reopen.

“We welcome the measures already in place to support these industries such as the furloughing scheme, the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILs) and the relaxation of planning rules to allow pubs and restaurants to provide takeaways during the outbreak.

“That said, further support will be needed to ensure that these sectors are able to survive.”

The industries include businesses such as hotels, pubs, restaurants and B&Bs.

Dozens of major events, which attract millions of people to Dorset and the New Forest, have been cancelled or postponed including Swanage Carnival, Race for Life, Bourne Free and the New Forest Show.