The South West’s tourist industry and the emergency services are warning visitors against travelling to the region before lockdown measures are due to be relaxed on 12th April.
There are fears a minority of tourists might be tempted to travel early, before facilities are ready or attractions are open. Apart from the risk of catching or spreading COVID-19, a dangerous 'false start' to the tourist season will put unnecessary extra strain on the emergency services.
Under the government’s roadmap for reopening after the lockdown, 12th April is the earliest date outdoor attractions are allowed to open. Self-contained accommodation such as campsites and holiday lets, where indoor facilities are not shared with other households, are also due to re-open on that date. Until then, many car parks and toilet facilities will not be fully open and of course, food and drink are only available from essential shops or takeaways.
The government has banned holidays before 12th April at the earliest.
Alistair Handyside, chair of the South West Tourism Alliance, said: “We’re all looking forward to a much-needed holiday this year. But the hospitality sector isn’t quite ready yet, and it won’t be until the restrictions are eased. After all the good work done to contain COVID-19, it’s worth waiting a few more weeks before travelling and it’s important to book the sort of accommodation and experiences which you can enjoy safely.”
Rescue organisations are also concerned. Alec Collyer MBE, chair of the Dartmoor Rescue Group, said: “It’s important visitors follow the rules. We will always do our utmost to help people who get into trouble on the moors, but there is no getting away from the fact that COVID-19 puts rescuers at additional risk. People shouldn’t be putting unnecessary additional strain on the emergency services just as the country is fighting its way out of the pandemic.”
Visitors are being asked to wait until they can book proper accommodation or campsites and to avoid wild camping or turning up on spec.
Chris Woodruff, manager of East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, said: “It’s vital we reopen the countryside in a careful way which respects the environment and complies with all the rules to keep us safe from COVID-19. It’s more important than ever that visitors wait until they can book somewhere to stay rather than just turn up. And please respect the government’s timetable so everyone can be ready to help you enjoy our beautiful landscapes.”
Malcolm Bell, Chief Executive of Visit Cornwall, had this advice for tourists: “The hospitality sector in Cornwall is working hard to get ready for visitors when the time is right – and no one wants to experience another lockdown. We want visitors to hear this message, plan ahead, book now and visit later when the rules allow and we look forward to welcoming you back to our beautiful part of the world."
The government’s full timetable for reopening after lockdown can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-response-spring-2021/covid-19-response-spring-2021-summary - step-2---not-before-12-april