Welcoming Britain back: tourism businesses set out post-lockdown plans

Without knowing exactly what changes will be announced when Boris Johnson produces his roadmap on Sunday, tourist boards across the UK are setting out plans for a phased reopening of attractions and businesses as theyendeavour to salvage some of the 2020 season. “We can’t afford to wait until lockdown’s over and find we’ve not got the plans in place,” said Gill Haigh, chief executive of CumbriaTourism.“The question is how we reset.” The challenge for destinations is giving tourism the shot in the arm that it desperately needs while reassuring visitors, employees and residents that they will be safe. As a result of that delicate balancing act, holidaying in the UK this summer may well feel like we’ve time-travelled back to the 1950s, before the advent of affordable foreign travel: there will be day trips tobeaches, parks and gardens; we’ll be able to buy an ice-cream but won’t be dining in a crowded restaurant; if it rains we won’t be sheltering in the nearest museum or indoor activitycentre. Outdoor spaces in rural and coastal areas and attractions with large grounds will be the first to welcome visitors, not just because those are places where social distancing can be maintained but because, post-lockdown, people will be drawn to nature for its calming effects. “What people were used to beforehand will not happen now: just turning up at a National Trust place may not be possible.” This first phase of openings will be closely watched by tourist boards aware that recovery is dependent on the confidence of local communities. “If local people see that these attractions are acting responsibly, you’re warming them up to the idea of more visitors coming back by late summer and autumn,” said Jo Dilley of Marketing Peak District. Measures being discussed include meeting guests at their car instead of at reception, express checkouts, two-hour slots for room cleaning, and even decorative screening between tables. Galleries, museums and other indoor attractions will be in the final tranche of openings in late summer or early autumn, although tourism officials hope to see some life return to cities if planning restrictions are relaxed to allow restaurants and bars to expand on to the streets. “In Swedenthey have closed down streets and made them into dining and drinking areas in the evenings to increase floor space and bring food outside,” said Kurt Janson, director of TourismAlliance, aconsortium of 55 trade bodies in tourism and hospitality.