Cornwall gears up to cash in as Covid rules threaten foreign trips

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Holiday accommodation owners in Cornwall are being deluged with enquiries from Britons planning a domestic summer holiday, after the government’s new Covid travel restrictions dampened hopes of overseas trips this year.

“This week in particular it has really picked up,” said Malcolm Bell, chief executive of official tourist body Visit Cornwall.

“Where there is a lot of interest is in hotels with facilities, spas and swimming pools, and motorhomers who thought: ‘I won’t be doing four weeks in France this year.’ Some of our most expensive hotels which normally get two or three night stays are up to four and five night stays. People are choosing it as a more significant holiday,” said Bell.

In addition to the G7 summit, being hosted at Carbis Bay in June, the health secretary, Matt Hancock announced in January that he had booked a trip to Cornwall, while warning that foreign holidays may not be possible in 2021 and people should plan for a “great British summer”.

Government restrictions on foreign travel, including the introduction of hotel quarantine for British citizens arriving from countries deemed high-risk, has directly influenced consumers’ internet searches, according to analysts at investment firm Jefferies.

They found that Google searches for “Cornwall holiday” increased during the traditionally important January booking window, while those for package holiday operators – including Tui, Jet2 and On the Beach – declined.

We expect government policy volatility to continue into the summer, from both the UK and destination markets,” said the Jefferies analysts in a research note, although they added that there would be pent-up demand for foreign holidays in the future, once restrictions lift and more people are vaccinated.

Heidi Clemo, who along with her husband runs the Little Winnick caravan and camping park at Pentewan in southern Cornwall, said she anticipating another busy tourist season, once they are allowed to welcome visitors back to England’s southernmost county. Under current Covid restrictions, domestic holidays are also banned.

“We have seen a massive surge in bookings, but we have also seen a change to the type of bookings,” Clemo said. “In January we’d normally be getting tentative spring booking for short breaks, whereas right now we are getting long 10-, 14-, 21-night bookings”.

The touring park was fully booked for the whole of last summer, albeit at a reduced capacity, once the business was allowed to reopen.

Cornwall proved a popular destination last summer as visitors enjoyed its beaches and rugged coastline, as well as its attractions, seafood restaurants and country pubs.

Clemo and other Cornish business owners are expecting a repeat performance this year, which would supply an injection of cash they sorely need.

The Cornish tourism industry lost out on £1bn last year as a result of coronavirus closures and reduced capacity, according to Visit Cornwall, totalling about £200m in lost profit.