Leisure firm bosses banking on staycation break boom
As many holidaymakers abandon hope of overseas travel this year, the UK is getting set for a boom in domestic breaks once restrictions are eased.
Lockdown has seen holiday plans across the world ruined, as borders close and travel companies drastically reduce operations.
Domestic tourism in the UK is suffering devastating losses during what should be the beginning of its peak season.
But tourism bosses and owners of hotels, B&Bs and camping sites across the region have been boosted by the Government saying holidays within the UK could return as early as the beginning of July.#
Following months of lockdown in their own homes due to the coronavirus pandemic, Tony Bywater, chairman of Salop Leisure, believes British families will be yearning for a change of scenery and a holiday escape when it’s safe to lift restrictions.
The caravan and motorhome dealership has sales centres in Shrewsbury, Machynlleth and Stourport-on-Severn. It also owns nine holiday home parks across inland and coastal Mid Wales, together with the Love2Stay holiday resort in Shrewsbury.
Mr Bywater said: “There is no question that, should the Government encourage summer holidays, then we would welcome it with open arms.
“Leisure vehicles and holiday homes are the easiest way to enjoy holidays in the UK and safely keep to the social distance policies currently in place.
“After months of staying at home, families will be desperate for a change of scenery where they can escape and relax. However, this will only happen when we are all advised by the governments in England, Wales and Scotland that it is safe to do so.
“We don’t yet know how things are going to pan out with airlines, restrictions on foreign travel and the progress of the pandemic in other countries. This uncertainty suggests to me that staycationing is going to be more popular than ever this year and in the foreseeable future.”
The tourism industry has been one of the hardest-hit by the outbreak as lockdowns have all but ground the sector to a halt.
“As a business in the leisure and hospitality sector, Covid -19 has impacted greatly,” Mr Bywater said. “As the largest supplier of leisure vehicles and holiday homes and touring caravans in the area, our business has felt the stark reality of the lockdown and the inability for people to travel.
“The lockdown restriction could not have happened at a worse time of year for the business, as April to June are some of our busiest months.”
But Mr Bywater is more optimistic about the future, believing seaside towns and resorts will see a boost in numbers and investment.
“Many small businesses in these places who rely on tourism have suffered at the hands of cheap flights and European package holidays in recent years and could see themselves as long-term beneficiaries once this pandemic is over.
"Caravans, motorhomes and holiday homes are such an attractive proposition post Covid-19 as they are able to safely facilitate quality family holidays without the risk, increased stresses and dangers that airports now pose.
"We believe that the demand for all forms of caravanning is going to increase dramatically in the forthcoming years. People will be apprehensive about leaving this country and facing quarantine restrictions when they return,” Mr Bywater added.
Morris Leisure, based in Shrewsbury, owns six touring and caravan holiday home parks across Shropshire and North Wales.
Managing director Edward Goddard said all of its parks have been closed since March 22 and it has had to cancel more than 3,000 bookings to date.
“Our touring and motorhome customers and holiday home owners significantly contribute to the local economy by supporting many other businesses including attractions, pubs, restaurants and shops. Without visitors, these economies will suffer,” he said.
Mr Goddard believes allowing people to take summer holidays will be good for people’s mental health.
“It will especially be good for those who live in densely populated and urbanised areas with not much green space,” he said.
He added risk assessments of all aspects of the business have been carried out and it will be sending Covid-19 specific health and safety instructions to all customers before arrival and displaying these around the parks.
Lisa Snape, sales and marketing manager at the Best Western Valley Hotel in Ironbridge, said the hotel had been forced to close due to Covid-19 and they were awaiting further information from the Government as to when they could start reopening.
“The staff have worked around the clock to move three and a half months of weddings and hundreds of reservations.
“We are planning ways in which we can operate ‘Covid safe’ in order to welcome back guests. The industry will need British travellers, as we expect a significant decrease from overseas travel – British staycations will be needed to help the sector get back up on its feet again,” she said.
Trevor Barber, owner of family-run Silver Trees Holiday Park in Stafford Brook Road, Rugeley, said that he was not expecting to be able to reopen for rentals before July 4 at the earliest.
The park on Cannock Chase, which has a lot of repeat business, has been shut during the crisis.
Mr Barber said: “We have had a number of people enquiring and we have been getting emails asking if we will have anything available, but it has been hard to give a categoric answer until the Government makes a ruling.”
He said the business would be following all Government guidelines and social distancing once it was able to reopen.