‘We are ready’: Devon and Cornwall welcomes back tourists

It’s Super Saturday and we’re good to go, is the message to holidaymakers from the Westcountry tourism industry.

Rick Turner, chair of the South West Tourism Alliance, said yesterday: “The next few weeks and months are going to be critical for everyone and it relies on us all being able to provide safe solutions for our locals and visitors to enjoy the very best that the South West has to offer.

“We are the number one tourism region in the UK and the thing that the last few months of lockdown has shown is the interconnectivity of the whole economy and its reliance on tourism, our major industry.

“Farming and food and drink, the income of the local councils and many other supporting industries have all suffered enormously as a result of the visitor economy being shut down.

“We hope there is some light at the end of the very dark tunnel and we need for everyone to be responsible.

“The message I would like is to Protect, Respect & Enjoy.

“We need the support of our locals and regular visitors to the region now that we are able to reopen to keep following the guidelines with social distancing, washing hands and hand sanitising, and avoid busy places on a busy day.”

Visitor numbers are expected to be down by 20 to 35% on a normal July weekend, Malcolm Bell, chief executive of Visit Cornwall, said. But after months of isolation, locals would still get the impression of a sudden influx.

He warned: “This is a relaxation – it’s not over. If you stick to the rules, you will minimise the risk to yourself and to others. Don’t travel here if you’re ill, keep your distance, and wash and sanitise your hands frequently.”

Visitors and locals should be prepared to go somewhere else if they turn up at a town or beach and it’s very busy.

And he warned: “If you get ill while you’re in Cornwall, go home if you can safely. If you can’t get home and have to self-isolate in Cornwall, you will have to pay.”

Carolyn Custerson, chief executive of the English Riviera BID Company, said yesterday: “We are ready.”

They got the draft government guidelines three weeks early, and have been helping businesses in the Bay area to prepare.

Torbay is one of the UK’s top family resorts, and at this time of year would normally expect to see families with pre-school children.

“I know residents are worried, but Visit England is forecasting that only 30% of households are going to leave home his summer.

“We are not going to see the invasion people are worried about.”

The biggest crowds were likely to be day visitors from the surrounding areas, she said.

Most hotels in Torbay are open, but bookings are down. Self-catering is holding up well, and holiday parks such as Beverley Holidays and Hoburne in Paignton are busy.

About half of the area’s visitor attractions will open this weekend. They, even more than accommodation providers, are having to make expensive adaptations – especially for indoor attractions.

Many – such as Greenway – are insisting that visitors go online to book ahead. At Kents Cavern in Torquay, guided tours have been cut from 50 people to ten.

Ms Custerson urged visitors to book ahead online where possible – and not to just turn up. She said people should bring face masks, particularly if they might use public transport, where masks are a legal requirement. And visitors should “avoid the busy honey pots and explore our hidden gems”.

#WelcomeBack – our call to support Devon and Cornwall’s tourism industry

Devon and Cornwall need your support now more than ever.

With our spectacular scenery, beaches and attractions, this region is our nation’s chosen tourist destination. Tourism is worth around £3billion a year to the Westcountry’s economy and countless jobs depend on the stream of visitors we welcome every year.

But this year everything has changed. In March, we rightly told visitors to stay away. Our #ComeBackLater campaign – backed by business leaders, councils, MPs and police – asked people not to travel to the region as the coronavirus pandemic spiralled. Those pleas were answered, on the whole, as our region’s tourism and hospitality industry was forced to shut down.

Now, finally, we are ready to welcome people back to Devon and Cornwall with open arms, starting from July 4.

Some of our biggest attractions are fighting for their futures. Many of our pubs, restaurants and hotels are also in an uncertain battle for survival. But CornwallLive, DevonLive and PlymouthLive will be doing all we can to stand shoulder to shoulder with them and to encourage visitors back to our great region. Come and see us again – but be sensible, be safe and be kind.

Our message to the world is loud and clear: #WelcomeBack

Rhys Roberts, chairman of Visit Devon and owner of the Tiverton Hotel, said bookings for hotels and other serviced accommodation was down 20 to 30%.

“People are still reluctant and nervous,” he said.

Mr Roberts said residents were understandably anxious, even though Devon is expecting much lower visitor numbers than in previous years. “That’s why we’re promoting a safety first message.”

Natural England reminded visitors that restrictions are still in place.

People can spend more time outdoors with up to six people, including those from outside their household, as long as they continue to observe social distancing rules.

Other advice includes: Avoid coast or countryside beauty spots – car parks and local communities have been extremely busy. Don’t light BBQs or fires, and take your litter home with you. Keep dogs on leads.

Rick Turner, who as well as his role in the South West Tourism Alliance is director of The Big Sheep attraction in North Devon, said: “We have been trying to ensure we still keep our sense of fun and sanitise the attraction rather than the experience.”

Plymouth Live