Tourism group steps up preparations for return of visitors

It was the Government that put the brakes on tourism in Cornwall and Scilly and it will be the Government that decides when to allow holiday-makers to visit again.

However to ensure residents in West Cornwall and on Scilly remain covid-safe when visitors return, Cornwall Councillor Linda Taylor and local MP Derek Thomas have been heading a Tourism Recovery Group.

The group, which comprises town centre managers, tourism leaders and many others involved in the hospitality sector, has been meeting for several weeks with the focus on how to minimise the risk of coronavirus not just within the accommodation itself but in those areas where holiday-makers may venture.

“Our accommodation providers and those that work in tourism are local residents who fully recognise the need to ensure that their families and elderly or vulnerable relatives are kept safe,” said Mr Thomas.

“Tourism contributes considerably to our local economy and the measures imposed to manage the spread of coronavirus have highlighted just how interdependent vast parts of our workforce are.

“Tradesmen and women, retailers, transport providers, farmers and those involved in the fishing industry are just some of those who have been severely impacted by the collapse of tourism and a safe, measured tourism recovery is paramount if these businesses are to survive.”

Mr Thomas said that accommodation providers plan to fundamentally change

 the way they work, proposing remote registration at arrival, contactless payments throughout and a move away from the standard 10am to 5pm Friday and Saturday changeover.

Guest houses and hotels represented by the Tourism Recovery Group membership are even planning to close communal areas including dining rooms where possible and put in place thorough cleaning regimes over and above the normal high standard's that you'd expect.

Jon Matthews, who chairs the Penzance and District Tourism Association said: “The welfare of our guests and community is at the heart of our business so we are putting in robust measures to protect everyone’s safety such as installing an automatic sanitising dispenser upon arrival.

“We have made big changes to how we operate and now provide a separate dining room to each bedroom ensuring giving maximum space increasing guest comfort during their stay.

“We will also be taking all pre-ordered breakfast direct to the separate dining rooms and ensuring that we still stick to our Plastic Free Sustainable principles whilst maintaining our safety measures.

“Like other similar businesses we are making these changes to do all that we can for those who live and work around us and the more things that we can all do will ensure that we can beat this virus as soon as possible.”

Another important measure being advocated by tourism representatives is to restrict visitors to those who have pre-booked. 

Louise Bryan who chairs the St Ives Tourism Association said: “A significant amount of work has been done to prepare for the reopening of hospitality both self-catering units and serviced accommodation when we are permitted by Government to do so.

“Extra measures are being introduced in order to maintain the highest level of cleanliness and safety. The capacity of self catering and serviced accommodation will be reduced to allow us to achieve this high standard.”

Town centres have not been idle during lockdown and, aided by temporary changes to road traffic management, safety plans, funded by central Government, are being developed so that road space will be reallocated to support town centre social distancing by pedestrians, allowing businesses to operate and enabling people to shop safely and with confidence.

Helen Tripconey, Business Improvement District Manager for St Ives said: “This has been a difficult time for residents and businesses alike; with the arrival of visitors shortly we all need to continue to work together to stay safe.

“St Ives Town Council, Cornwall Council & St Ives BID are working together to ensure guidelines are met and a town safety plan is in place so that residents and businesses remain safe whilst the visitor experience is a positive one.”

Cllr Linda Taylor, who co-hosts the Tourism Recovery Group praised the commitment and expertise of members of the group and said their work was “invaluable in addressing the anxiety and concern of our residents, not least because members of the group also sit on national groups that are heavily engaged in drawing up covid-safe plans for tourism”.

Contributors to the discussion have included Nick Lawrence, a former resident of Helston, who is leading this work in Cornwall and Devon for the National Trust; Andrew Baragwanath, local site owner and chair of the British Holiday and Home Parks Association and Echo Lu, CEO Haulfren Group, operators of Praa Sands Caravan Park.

“Everyone who has taken part is acutely aware of the need to proceed with caution because the long-term future of tourism in Cornwall depends on us getting this right,” added Cllr Taylor.  

James Parker, Operations Manager for Tregenna Castle Resort, stated: “We are extremely conscious for the need to proceed with caution and will adhere to strict safety measures to ensure our team, guests and wider community are safe. 

“We understand that it is imperative we all work collectively to make sure the Cornish tourism industry can survive but we must get it right for everyone. We promise to only move forward tentatively and continue to go above and beyond the safety guidance in place.”

Derek Thomas MP has been in constant dialogue with Ministers regarding tourism recovery in the constituency and added: ‘Our work has not just been about how we prepare safely for the inevitable: the return of holiday-makers.

“We have also identified ways that the Government could help manage the return of tourists and support the sector. The tourism sector faces unprecedented challenges as we continue to adhere to measures to stop the spread of coronavirus. This hurts the sector this year and it will take years to fully recover.

“To address this we have connected with other coastal communities and their MPs to make the case for financial support for tourism. This includes pubs and restaurants who remain open for the local population through winter periods thanks to the money they make from summer tourism but are simply not viable once they restrict their custom to meet social distancing requirements. 

“To date Government Ministers have made positive and supportive comments in response to this demand.

“In the meantime, I applaud those many pubs, restaurants and cafes which have risen to the challenge of helping local residents during lockdown, providing meals, accommodation and other support to individuals in need of help.”