Derbyshire tourism bosses express concerns ahead of industry reopening

As one of the hardest hit sectors, tourism bosses in Derbyshire now look forward to reopening their doors to the world but wish more could be done to help the local businesses which are struggling to get back on their feet.

Mam Tor. Picture by Tom Hodgson Visit Peak District and Derbyshire
Mam Tor. Picture by Tom Hodgson Visit Peak District and Derbyshire

On Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that holiday lets and some outdoor attractions will not reopen until April 12 at the earliest but this also means that the industry will miss out on the critical Easter season.

Jo Dilley, Managing Director of Marketing Peak District and Derbyshire said the roadmap announcement has provided some "much-needed light at the end of the tunnel" but they are still many weeks from reopening.

She said: "Businesses are going to miss out on the critical Easter season, so it's vital that the sector is given continued Government support.

Pennine Way. Picture by Lukasz Warzecha (Visit Peak District and Derbyshire)

"Local businesses have already invested a huge amount into becoming Covid-compliant and until all restrictions are removed, many cannot operate profitably.

"The visitor economy employs over 32,000 people in the Peak District and Derbyshire and is a huge driver for the local economy, worth £2.5 billion, so it's incredibly important that we help the tourism industry get back on its feet in a responsible, sustainable way."

Julie Dalton, the managing director For Gulliver's Theme Parks and Resorts also said the industry will take time to recover and they do need to see continued support from the Government.

"With the furlough scheme extended, as many places will only be able to operate under limited numbers and the continuation of the 5% VAT rate. Without this support, some businesses simply will not survive."

Despite her concerns, she said the company is working towards reopening their four theme parks, including Gulliver's Kingdom, in April.

“The reopening of theme parks and outdoor attractions is step two in the Government’s four step plan and the current guidance states that this will be able to happen no earlier than April 12.

“As a family business being unable to open our theme parks for much of 2020 has been very difficult and we are now looking forward to working towards welcoming customers back to our parks in a safe way as soon as we are able to do so."

Renishaw Hall and Gardens, which is home to the famous Sitwell family of writers and poets, said they are hopeful they can remain open during the season allowing people to experience the changing seasons in the garden.

Its owner Alexandra Sitwell said this time last year they were preparing the Estate for opening, not knowing how the world would change in the months ahead.

"When the pandemic hit we were forced to cancel the plans for opening...We are hoping 2021 brings a return to normality as much as possible, with those who discovered the gardens in 2020 continuing to visit this year."

The publicity officer for the Chesterfield Canal Trust Rod Auton said they are working towards getting the trip boats up and running.

"We haven’t been able to do that for a year and because of social distancing rules where 12 people are all squeezed together in a small boat, obviously not conducive for social distancing.

"I am hoping perhaps after June 21 when all remaining restrictions are lifted, we will be able to run our trip boats again,” he said.