The Leisure Fund is designed specifically for the leisure industry and comes with two six month capital repayment holidays - allowing breathing space for investment and contingency planning.
The launch of the fund follows publication of research by the two banks, which shows that one in four UK leisure businesses feel they are losing out to competitors due to lack of investment.
The survey of SMEs across the leisure industry showed 30% of respondents did not feel they had invested sufficiently in 2012 to remain competitive, but 55% believed investment in refurbishment or new equipment would make a positive impact on their business.
However, when asked how optimistic they felt about 2013, 48% of those surveyed believed their business would grow in the next year, with 73% of those saying they were either optimistic or very optimistic about 2013.
Andrew Taylor, Head of Leisure for Commercial Banking at NatWest and RBS 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.”
VisitEngland has worked closely with the bank to provide additional insight on the industry’s needs in the development of the Leisure Fund.
James Berresford, Chief Executive of VisitEngland, 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.”
Another key issue for the industry is the impact of adverse weather. The survey reveals that 74% of the businesses surveyed 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.”
Taylor said that leisure is a key industry for the UK, generating around £97bn of GDP and providing nearly two million jobs.
NatWest and RBS have set up a team of specialist relationship managers who operate across the sector.