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Cornwall fears 80% of tourism sector is 'at risk' without summer trade

Cornwall fears 80% of tourism sector is 'at risk' without summer trade

Published by Sarah Yeoman at 5:36am 20th April 2020.

There are fears that 80% of the tourism industry in Cornwall could collapse if holidaymakers cannot return for July and August.

The loss of the Easter trade has already set the sector back around £300m.

Visit Cornwall chief executive, Malcolm Bell, says it is proving a 'major test' for the Duchy's tourism businesses.

"Many businesses are at their lowest cash point - they've gone through their winter eking out the cash.

"It's actually worse than that - many businesses are close to their overdraft limit and of course now not only is no money coming in, you've got customers wanting their money back. Many businesses invested heavily during the winter."

Malcolm Bell, Visit Cornwall

Easter would have seen around 150,000 to 180,000 people visit Cornwall - increasing the county's population by about a third.

A #comebacklater campaign to ensure holidaymakers stay away from Devon and Cornwall has been running since the lockdown.

But the focus is now turning to the peak summer months.

Mr Bell said: "It's a really bad blow losing Easter. For the worst-case scenario, which we hope won't happen, if this went through to August we'd be talking about £1.2bn worth of lost earnings. According to our research that could be the end for 80% of the business."

He added: "If we get going in June or May, we may see 5% go. The longer it goes on that failure rate goes up. It's when you make your money. Two-thirds of income is made in spring and summer."

Caravan sites, holiday parks and cottage lets have all closed, and the knock-on effect to the wider industry is clear to see.

Tourist hotspots like Padstow on the north Cornwall coast are deserted - ice cream parlours and pasty shops empty.

The Camel Creek Adventure Park near Wadebridge would expect to welcome 2,000 to 3,000 visitors a day in April, but the site feels eerie.

"We would have staff everywhere, painting, cleaning, getting ready, It's very, very strange."

Alexis Camelin, the park's operations manager

Most of its staff are furloughed - but a few remain on site to look after animals, including crocodiles and meerkats.

The burger take-out counter and hundreds of kids seats are empty.

Mr Camelin admits he's never seen anything like it, saying: "It's surreal... it's daunting."

The focus now is being ready to reopen as soon as the restrictions are lifted.

"It's really about making sure we have a plan a, b, or c to any eventuality when the park will reopen and when the rules will start to be relaxed."

Alexis Camelin, Camel Creek

The park is selling tickets for once it reopens and is donating 50% of the money to the NHS.

Mr Bell said there is "pent-up" demand - and it may mean the holiday parks remain open for longer this season.

He explained: "We still believe we can have a good July and August and into the autumn. We're arguing for holiday parks to stay open an extra month.

"There are opportunities to make up some of the ground but we won't make up all of it now - and the longer that goes on into May, June and god forbid July, it starts doing terminal damage to the sector."

Malcom Bell, Visit Cornwall

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