Well, we live in interesting times.
About now we’d normally be running a whole string of articles about how we’ve been exploring our own country, taking afternoon tea, eating fish and chips on the pier and visiting castles, gardens and stately homes.
Not in 2020.
With most international flights still grounded and the Foreign Office advising essential travel only, even those countries re-opening their borders are unattainable. So it looks like this summer will be the biggest stay-cation ever.
Not surprisingly the focus of this year’s English Tourism Week (25 – 31 May 2020) is the plans to bring as much activity back into the sector as quickly as possible, once it’s safe to do so. And it is vitally important; in normal times you and I contribute to English tourism’s £106 billion a year and help provide employment for around 2.6 million people.
It feels very odd to be promoting holidays at all when we’re still in lockdown, pubs and restaurants can only serve takeaways and overnight stays are banned. But now is the time to be creative, think about what you can reasonably and safely do and where you will go when we are, at last, free to travel.
England is moving at a slightly different pace to the rest of the UK but according to the COVID-19 recovery strategy if the measures to curb infection meet with success a gradual opening up of the hospitality and tourism industry could begin from 4 July 2020.
So what can we do?
Start small, start local
Favourite coffee shop just re-opened for takeaways? Local restaurant doing deliveries? Your support means they’ve got a chance of still being there in six months time. Many of us are counting our pennies right now and are still avoiding going into crowded places but I am planning a stroll along the seafront very soon just to buy a vegan Mr Whippy-style ice-cream from my favourite kiosk.
Make the most of day trips
Whilst staying at home remains the safest thing to do, and for many with health issues it’s still essential, in England we are now allowed out more than once a day, for more than just exercise. Social distancing must be maintained and just remember toilets are few and far between – you may have to choose your destination based on the strength of your bladder! Check our Leisure in Lockdown article for some useful resources to help you find somewhere near you.
Fun in the fresh air
The evidence is that the risk of infection outside is significantly lower than inside so the wide open spaces of parks, moorland and gardens are already calling. Chelsea Flower Show was virtual this year and most public gardens remain closed. But before long we can expect to see some opening up, although pre-booking will be necessary to avoid over-crowding. Time to do your research and decide which ones are on your list. For us it will be a local NGS garden and a return trip to the recently restored Leonardslee Gardens which we hope will still be in full bloom.
Where to stay – once we can
The self catering isolated caravan, cabin or cottage will be everyone’s first choice. It means you can stay within your own household ‘bubble’ and accommodation can be thoroughly cleaned between bookings. Look for the unusual, the remote and the off-the-beaten track. Quirky Accom and Host Unusual are both great resources.
How will you be supporting this virtual English Tourism Week?