New programme to help West Sussex tourism and hospitality businesses bounce back after the pandemic   

A newly launched business innovation programme led by the University of Brighton aims to boost local tourism and hospitality businesses hit by the pandemic. The West Sussex visitor economy shrank by 50% compared to 2019, with a loss of £1 billion of visitor spend since the pandemic struck in 2020.

The Horizons: Innovation in the Tourism and Hospitality sectors programme – part of the Research, Innovation in Sussex Excellent (RISE) project led by the university of Brighton, in partnership with the University of Sussex and West Sussex County Council – kicks off with introductory webinars for local SMEs on 31 March and 5 April.

The programme provides Sussex-based small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with fully subsidised access to expert university support, and includes an opportunity to work with an academic to develop or improve a specific product or service. Up to £5000 of support is available for each participant, with no cost to the business.

Lorraine Bell, Head of RISE at University of Brighton, said: “We know that many local businesses in West Sussex were hit hard by the pandemic, with tourism, hospitality and the visitor economy particularly hard-hit. Working with West Sussex County Council, we’ve developed our Horizons programme to help small and medium-sized businesses to recover and grow, helping them to build understanding, confidence and skills and providing inspiration for businesses to get creative and innovative.”

Samantha Smithson, from Experience West Sussex, said: “Skills shortages and recruitment challenges remain a consistent challenge, [while] rising energy costs alongside the need for decarbonisation will also be putting pressure on SMEs. The RISE Horizons programme offers a unique opportunity for West Sussex tourism and hospitality business leaders to focus on innovation as a means to overcome some of the challenges ahead.

“By providing access to specialist university expertise, this programme can help transform operations and visitor experiences to promote business growth. It presents businesses with practical solutions to enable change in a truly innovative way. For anyone looking to future-proof their business growth, this is a great opportunity.”

To find out more about the RISE Horizon programme visit or contact the RISE team directly at

Note to editor: The RISE programme is receiving up to £603,514 of funding from the European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 in England.

Author: Lisa Thompson
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