Yesterday, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden spoke in the House of Commons in support of a summer of British holidays, saying that he had high hopes for the cottage and self-catering industry in particular.
“Self-let accommodation has a lower risk, so I would hope that is at the front of the queue,” Dowden said. This echoed the sentiment reported following Boris Johnson’s announcement back in May over the estimated timeline for unlocking Britain, and the hope that self-catering accommodation would be at the top of the list for those wanting to holiday at home this year.
“We firmly believe self-catering holiday accommodation could be the first in the sector to re-open, and safely house holidaymakers post lockdown,” Julianne Shelton, a Managing Director of Cornish Gems, told Telegraph Travel.
“Visitors could travel from their own homes, directly to holiday cottages, check-in contactlessly and self-cater during their stay. They can enjoy the unique beauty of Cornwall, while following social distancing rules and come home to luxurious accommodation, which will be welcome after weeks of lockdown. We look forward to the publication of the Government's guidance on how we can work together to protect lives as well as livelihoods.”
In anticipation of a summer of self-catered British holidays, Airbnb has developed a new Cleaning Protocol. “The British summer holiday is back on the horizon and hosts are getting ready to provide accommodation away from the crowds that's local, private, clean and safe,” the global company said in a statement. “Domestic travel made up almost 2 in 3 trips on Airbnb last year and hosts stand ready to welcome guests back, as soon the government says it's safe to do so.”
But when it came to how these self-catering companies could operate going forward, Dowden did not deliver a firm response to concerns raised by those across various sectors of the domestic tourism industry during recent weeks.
“One of the challenges we will have is getting the sector up and running as strongly as possible in the summer and extending it for as long as we can," he said. "We are hoping to get tourism back as rapidly as possible, and when it is back we will invest extensively in ensuring that we have a major campaign to encourage British people to take British staycations.”
What the Government has failed to provide so far is any clear guidelines on what and how companies could prepare for July 4.
Martin Smith, founder of Campsites.co.uk, recently condemned the lack of clear advice from the Government for campsite owners, who have been left trying to anticipate which new safety features need to be put in place ahead of the summer season.
“The Government has given specific advice to shops, offices and other sectors, but the camping industry needs similar detail,” Smith told Telegraph Travel. “Much of the information that has come out is geared towards sites that provide caravan accommodation that is self-contained. But the situation for tents and glamping, where shared facilities are essential, is much less clear.”
The same can be said of the self-catering industry who are also feeling paralysed by ambiguity. “We’re all trying to second-guess what’s going to happen,” said Bill Haslam, CEO of Landal Gwel an Mor holiday resort in Cornwall. “I appreciate that the virus is a moving target for the Government, but we need clarity and guidance – as the restrictions are lifted, definition will be key.”
VisitBritain continues to work on its ‘quality mark’ in collaboration with the Government and have recently called for an additional bank holiday in October. “We are working across the industry and with the UK Government to ensure that tourism can recover as quickly as possible once restrictions are lifted, save as much of the valuable summer season as we can and to extend the tourism season into October and beyond,”said Patricia Yates, CEO of the domestic tourist board.
Back in early May, VisitBritain revealed to Telegraph Travel that time was of the essence and that it would likely take most hotels at least four weeks to be in a position to accept guests – even at 10 per cent occupancy level – while pubs could take as long as six.
Although there appears to be momentum and support for holidays at home, as demonstrated by Dowden's comments yesterday, what continues to be lacking is the additional guidance that would allow these companies to ensure that they are as prepared as possible to open July 4. But as we edge ever-closer to this date, it feels as though time may be running out.