Coronavirus: 'Think, plan and book': Cornwall reopens for business but with a new normal

July 02, 2020

Tourism bosses in Cornwall say COVID-19 has already cost the sector more than £650m in lost revenue and are warning there will be no "speedy recovery" when the industry reopens on Saturday.

Hotels and holiday parks can open their doors once again in England this weekend, but new guidelines and reduced capacity mean many businesses continue to be at risk of closure.

Malcolm Bell from Visit Cornwall says the remaining summer season will be about "damage limitation".

"It's great to be able to open after over 100 days - but the fact is we've lost £655m in business," he says. "We won't be all be to operate fully because of social distancing, so it's great to open but the summer will be damage limitation, not a speedy recovery."

He added: "A lot of businesses are just concentrating on reopening. They'll all be doing their cash flows every week now to see if they can get through the winter."

The Headland Hotel in Newquay is busy preparing to welcome back guests.

Owner Caroline Armstrong says it's been a very tough few months: "Reopening has been far more difficult than closing. We've already lost so much money over the last three months, my goodness me it's going to be difficult as we don't know how the guests are going to react."

The hotel doesn't expect to make a profit this summer and is having to make a third of its staff redundant.

It has just completed a £10m new pool complex - but government rules mean it can't yet open.

Check-in, restaurant and cleaning procedures have all had to change.

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"As we reopen we've got to be just as hospitable, and friendly - but keeping them [guests] at a distance, not offering all the things we do - not pouring the wine, showing them round, turning down the beds, we'll just have to be flexible and judge the character of our guests so they do have an enjoyable time."

She added: "Our concierge Sarah would normally give guests a big hug - they can't do that. Some staff will choose to wear masks and you can't see that smiley face...it's going to be very different."

According to the organisation, Centre for Towns, Newquay is the most exposed town in England to the economic impact of COVID-19 - with 56% of people employed in hospitality and tourism.

The town has seen a 100% increase in the unemployment rate from March to April this year, according to the Oxford Consultants for Social Inclusion.

As a whole, Cornwall Council fears the pandemic could cost 72,800 jobs - 27% of the county's total employment.

Jobs are already at risk at Newquay Zoo, where staff are going through a redundancy consolation.

It re-opened this week and has had to spend nearly £500,000 during lockdown just to look after the animals.

Simon Tongue from Wild Planet Trust, which runs the Zoo, says getting visitors back is vital: "For us it's literally a matter of life and death. If we don't get the visitors numbers we need and if people don't buy coffee, ice creams, then we will die. It's that serious for us."

He added: "We are worried about the bigger picture, we are reliant on visitors coming from up country. We have already spent all our reserves staying warm and upright."

Visit Cornwall's official message at the start of lockdown was "Stay Away" - but it's now all change according to Mr Bell: "The message now is we're welcoming you back - you can have a great holiday, we're sure you'll have a great holiday, but some things have changed.

"For instance, at some leading attractions you have to pre-book a ticket, restaurants have changed their capacity so you'll need to reserve. Our three words are think, plan and book."

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