How the roadmap to easing lockdown has boosted Peak District staycation businesses: 'We're feeling very positive'
Bookings for cottages and self-catering accommodation in the Peak District have surged since the Government announced its roadmap to easing lockdown restrictions, businesses have said – but hostels will be difficult to open until social distancing rules are fully relaxed, an operator has warned.
While trips at Easter won’t be possible, according to the official plan April 12 is the earliest date when domestic breaks could be allowed in England.
The nation’s beauty spots will be top of the list for people planning getaways, meaning the Peak Park is likely to see an influx of tourists once people can travel again.
Martin Hofman, who together with his wife Deborah runs Wheeldon Trees Farm Holiday Cottages in Earl Sterndale, said bookings had increased since Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out the roadmap.
“We're very pleased to be able to open for business again and since the announcement we've had lots of bookings from April through the rest of the summer,” said Martin. "I think people were holding off. We’re feeling very positive.”
The Hofmans’ business consists of nine award-winning self-catering properties. Martin said they already had ‘a fair number of bookings’ for 2021, but ‘not necessarily ones shifted over from last year’.
“Up until November and December people had been booking for this year, and then it went very quiet,” he said. “We didn't push – people who cancelled last year, we refunded them rather than changing their bookings.”
Martin expressed mixed feelings about missing the important Easter period.
“I'm sorry because the first two weeks in April were the high season, they're two very valuable weeks. But, on the other hand, I'd much rather wait a bit longer and reduce the chances of heading back in the other direction, as it were.”
Meanwhile Sheila Wainwright, who runs Ollerbrook Farm Cottages and Bunkhouses at Edale in the Hope Valley, said holidaymakers seemed keen to ‘get back out’ in the countryside.
"We're very lucky because we live here, but there's a lot of people who will want to go walking, get some fresh air and get a break,” she said.
Ollerbrook Farm’s two bunkhouses offer hostel-style accommodation, catering for groups of 18 and 16 respectively. Sheila said that because of the rule of six – due to be reintroduced indoors from May 17 – hostels would be ‘not quite up to the mark’ for some time.
“You can't do it still, really, not until June,” she said.
And even smaller cottages could remain ‘a bit of a minefield’, she suggested.
“Every family that books is different, they're not just ones or twos. They could be two families sharing a cottage or two couples.”
Sally Balcombe, CEO of Visit Britain, told industry website Skift that domestic hotels, restaurants and bars represented ‘the lifeblood of the tourism sector’.
“What we’re really hoping is the summer is our peak and that everything is fully up and running, but also that the vaccinations continue with the pace we’re doing them,” she said this week. “They’re saying every adult in the UK will be vaccinated by the end of July. So if we can achieve anything close to that, we should be able then to have some good domestic recovery through the spring into that summer period.”