Hopes and fears over roadmap to recovery

From shops to salons, tourism attractions to airlines, companies big and small have been taking stock of Boris Johnson’s plan to guide the UK out of lockdown in the coming months.

Majestic Travel want more clarification
Majestic Travel want more clarification

Tourism

As the roadmap out of lockdown begins, different parts of the travel industry have been looking at how the announcement affects them.

Under the stages announced, UK domestic holidays away from home within self-contained accommodation will be permitted for use by members of the same household after April 12.

Additionally, hotels, hostels and B&B’s can reopen to household groups and international travel will be able to resume after May 17.

Sykes Holiday Cottages have a number of properties in the region across northern Worcestershire and Shropshire and chief executive Graham Donoghue said: “Self-catered accommodation is arguably one of the safest ways to travel so it makes complete sense to allow this first.

“With a holiday let, contact with others can be limited as people travel in their own vehicles and there are no shared facilities. In recent weeks, we’ve seen a significant increase in bookings for later this year, which is a reflection of the nation’s growing confidence as well as, perhaps, lockdown fatigue.

“However, most people were planning ahead for summer, so we expect to see a sudden scramble as people get their May half-term and bank holiday plans lined up too.” Wolverhampton-based flight operators Aerojets Travel Ltd books aeroplane travel, with the majority of its flights heading to India and south Asia.

Operations manager Hamesh Kataria said: “We’ve had a lot of advisory inquiries from people who want to know what they should do and what they need to do if they have to travel for emergencies. We are a very small business and we have worked with our accountants to ensure we can still run going forward.”

Hopley’s have had plenty of calls

Campsite owner Justin Hopley has seen a big increase in bookings for Hopley’s Family Camping in Bewdley.

He said: “Everybody wants to change their dates as they had booked for Easter, but have now moved it to later, and we made about 80 bookings yesterday. I’m surprised that it’s April, which is earlier than I thought, but I’m really happy about being able to plan ahead. I do feel more optimistic for the future as I know the trade will come back.”

Salop Leisure in Shrewsbury, popular with people from across the region, will also be able to reopen its ‘Love to Stay’ glamping site on April 12, and could be able to open its outdoor adventure centre on March 29. Mark Bebb, managing director at Salop Leisure said: “We are disappointed that we are not open for Easter but we understand the seriousness of the situation and we are looking forward very much to April 12. The glamping will be able to re-open on April 12 to individual households. That is really exciting. “Within three hours of the announcement we took £40,000 of bookings.”

Laura Wilde at Salop Leisure, which has seen a surge in bookings for glamping

Steve Hall, managing director of Majestic Travel, wants more clarification about how the coach industry fit in to it.

He said: “Everybody knows what public transport is, but no one seems to have grasped the concept of what the coach industry does. We’ve had people ringing for the last 12 months about when we can begin to put trips on again and once we have a clearer idea of what to do, we can begin to put some trips out.” People looking to go abroad have been flocking to tour operators such as Jet2holidays, who have reported a dramatic surge in bookings.

And in the hours after the announcement, easyJet said bookings by UK customers for the summer season were more than four times higher compared with the same period during the previous week.

Tui, the UK’s largest tour operator, recorded a six-fold increase in bookings, making Monday its busiest day in more than a month.

Visitor attractions

The director of Dudley Zoo and Castle described the road map out of lockdown as “hugely disappointing” and “costly” for the attraction.

Under the Governments steps to ease the national lockdown, outdoor attractions such as zoos and theme parks, are set to reopen no earlier than April 12.

Not convinced – Derek Grove at Dudley Zoo

But Derek Grove, the director of Dudley Zoo and Castle, says the decision did not reflect the “low level risk” an outdoor site such as the attraction poses – he added especially as parks and open spaces have remained open throughout the third national lockdown.

During the first national lockdown, Dudley Zoo and Castle had issued a rally cry for support– after bosses revealed it was losing £100,000 a week while it was closed. When they first reopened in June, there was a 300 person limit to the Castle Hill attraction for the first few days, about two percent of their capacity – which would then gradually increase. Other safety measures included social distancing queue lines, a one-way system around the site marked by painted floor arrows, hand sanitiser stations around the 40-acre site and guests will be encouraged to bring their own picnics.

Mr Grove said: “By preventing Covid-safe attractions like zoos and safari parks from opening will continue to leave places that have no controlled admittance, like public parks and children’s play areas, in high demand. Zoos can provide similar entertainment spaces for families, reducing the pressures from other facilities, while delivering an educational and fun day out for all ages.”

While the chief executive of Black Country Living Museum, Andrew Lovett, said: “I welcome the publication of the roadmap. We’re studying the detail of the document and its implications for how we reopen the museum; we want to welcome visitors back as soon as we can and see the place come to life once again. We’ll be working hard to make that a reality over the coming weeks. The trade-off for opening later than any of us would like is the greater certainty of remaining open.”

A spokesperson from West Midland Safari Park said: “As a major family attraction here in the West Midlands we are delighted that safari parks and zoos have the go-ahead to reopen, and for us that will be April 12. The news has brought much optimism to us all here at the park and we are looking forward to welcoming back guests with all the necessary safety measures in place.

“We are hoping this is the start to a much brighter 2021 and are excited to start the spring season with giving our guests an enjoyable and well needed day out with their family.”

James Binnian, owner of Bodenham Arboretum, in Wolverley, said: “I am extremely happy to be able to put our tables and chairs back on the terrace from April 12 for outdoor dining and we know this will be welcomed by the public. I believe that the Prime Minister is correct in exercising caution.”

Nightclubs

Club-goers and bosses are rejoicing after finally being given a date for reopening after being closed for almost 12 months.

The majority of club venues have been closed since the first lockdown hit the UK in March 2020.

Since then, clubs have relied on the Government’s grant scheme, furlough and the support of their loyal customers to keep them afloat.

Club owner Michael Ansell outside The Planet Nightclub, Wolverhampton

The owner of Planet Nightclub on Westbury Street in Wolverhampton, Michael Ansell, has been left in more than £140,000 worth of debt since the pandemic struck.

The Government’s announcement on Monday has given Michael a glimmer of hope for the future of his business, and he has already been inundated with messages on social media from punters who cannot wait to get back on the dance floor.

Fans of The Planet raised more than £14,000 to support Michael’s business during the last 12 months.

Michael said: “I wasn’t expecting nightclubs to be mentioned, as so far we haven’t other than under the umbrella of hospitality, so it was a shock but also a breath of fresh air.

“There is an end in sight, I got quite emotional, when it was announced. All of a sudden my Facebook went ballistic and people have been donating to the GoFundMe again, another £1,000 was donated.

“I know I won’t need to borrow any more money and my repayments aren’t due until June.

“It’s brilliant news, there’s still 16 weeks minimum until we can open but let’s hope that everyone plays ball so we can follow the roadmap.

“A lot of people care, this is a win for everybody. I want to say thank you to the local authority, MP Stuart Anderson and all the GoFunders.”

Michael hopes that business rates and VAT relief will continue for at least the next six months to allow the club to reopen and generate some income again.

Despite his relief, Michael is not certain all restrictions will be completely lifted in June.

He added: “I am sceptical that all restrictions will be lifted at the beginning.

“We have a capacity of 1,000 and I can’t see the Government let that many people in.

“If it’s half capacity, we can make it work, but any less we would struggle until restrictions are permanently lifted.

“Our first night that we can reopen is going to be for the people who donated to the fundraiser to say thank you.”

Shops

“We’re looking to make up for lost time and get ourselves back to how we were before lockdown started.”

The announcement of the lockdown roadmap by the prime minister Boris Johnson has been greeted with a mixture of joy and relief by independent shop owners across the region.

Under step two of the roadmap, non-essential retail shops will be among a group of settings able to reopen their doors no earlier than April 12. While the announcement means shops such as florists and stationers will be closed for at least another month and a half, it has allowed shop owners such as Manni Massey to begin planning ahead.

Waiting – Manni Massey outside his GM Stationery shop in Wombourne

Mr Massey, who owns G M Stationery in Wombourne, said: “I was expecting the shops to be opened in May, so it was good to hear about it being in April.

“I think it’s a good move as I don’t see the need to close non-essential retail shops as I know people have been out and about anyway. It’s been devastating to have the shop closed as while we’ve tried to do something online, it’s not the same as people being able to come in and physically see what they need.

“I at least know there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Steve Edwards is hoping for T-shirt weather

Steve Edwards, owner of Black Country Hub in the Merry Hill Centre said: “We were only really able to open properly in December, which just wasn’t good at all, so to know there is a date for reopening is fantastic.

“We’re seriously down on what we would normally make when we are open.

“We could do with additional help, such as freezing business rates for another year.

“We sell t-shirts and socks, so opening just as the weather is turning nice will really work well for us, so I’m delighted to find out that we’re able to reopen.”

Kerry Goodyear at Sorella Florist & Event Stylist, Hednesford

Kerry Goodyear, co-owner of Sorella Florist & Event Stylist, said: “It’s bittersweet as we’re just going to miss Mother’s day for people coming into the shop, but having a date to reopen is the most important thing.

“It will help us as the wedding side of our business had suffered dramatically. Without the government support, we would have disappeared.”

Hair stylists

The last 12 months have been fraught with hairy moments – and a crimper to the stars is getting ready for a busy few months.

Nick Malenko, of Royston Blythe in Compton, Wolverhampton, says the shop will probably be open from 9am to 10pm when they first re-open in mid April, barring no disasters with the infection rate. Colleagues will be working round the clock to salvage dodgy ‘covidcuts’ and give people a fresh new look as we prepare, hopefully, for a summer of fun.

Nick Malenko and Royston Blythe

Nick is expecting the phones to be ringing with customers desperate to get their locks tended to, and is looking forward to an intense but exciting time.

“There will be lots to do,” he said. “We’ll have to start getting people in to call the clients and take bookings. They’re saying mid April but that depends on what happens with other things still. It’s been a very different time. If somebody had said we would be closed for half of the year you would have laughed.”

The disastrous home haircut has been up there with banana bread and Joe Wicks PE lessons among the weird rituals of the pandemic period. Skin fades that look like they’ve been cut with a knife and fork, roots emerging as black as night and Dumb and Dumber specials are just a few of the embarrassing barnets we’ve seen.

Sales of scissors and clippers may well have rocketed, then subsequently hats to hide the evidence. But there will soon be no need for Wulfrunians to be crying in the shower as they run their fingers through the remaining strands, as the city stylists make their return.

Nick thinks a fresh haircut will help people start to feel themselves again after a torrid year. He said: “I think everyone is desperate to have normal life back. The first lockdown was a lot easier because the weather was amazing and we’d never had a lockdown before. We sort of just got on with it, but I think now people are just depressed by the whole thing. You can have new clothes, but if your hair’s not great, you don’t feel great.”

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