With the announcements in recent weeks preparing the Welsh tourism industry to slowly start re-opening, businesses across Wrexham County Borough have faced their own challenges to transition between lockdown and re-opening to safely welcome back visitors to the area.
Since March, tourism operators in the local area have united to work with Wrexham County Borough Council and the This Is Wrexham Tourism Partnership to feed into the strategy of Welsh Government (Visit Wales). After weeks of speculation and uncertainty about the future of the tourism sector in Wales, the announcement on Friday from Welsh Government gave notice to the indoor part of the tourism sector to prepare for reopening on 3rd August, with many self-catering and outdoor attractions reopening from this week.
Despite the news, it has been an anxious time for many tourism businesses across Wales, with the sector still potentially facing the equivalent of a “three winter” year if consumer confidence doesn’t return later this summer, with a lack of revenue to sustain jobs over the winter period. To help with this, many tourism businesses across Wrexham County Borough have signed up to the national “good to go” COVID-safe scheme, recognising the first-class safety measures that have been put in place behind the scenes to reassure visitors whilst still providing a great experience.
One of the County’s most popular holiday parks, the award-winning Plassey in Eyton has been working hard behind the scenes in readiness to welcome back visitors from this weekend.
Despite the uncertainty of recent months, owner John Brookshaw is delighted to be re-opening;
“We are absolutely delighted to reopen and cannot wait to see all our lovely guests once again. The past few months have been really tough and at times incredibly worrying for our family business and for all our team of over 40 staff whose livelihoods depend on the Plassey Holiday Park. To prepare for re-opening, we have also been putting all the necessary training & procedures in to ensure we are Covid-19 Secure and fully compliant, and our guests can return to Plassey in a safe & welcoming environment.”
In the Ceiriog Valley, the highly renowned Hand at Llanarmon has this week received full accreditation from the national “Good to Go” scheme and the AA covid-safe scheme. During the pandemic, the team have also received high praise for the efforts to support the local community by diversifying into takeaway offerings at cost, providing essential supplies and keeping spirits up via their lighthearted social media posts.
Like others with outdoor facilities, the Hand has done a lot of preparation to re-open safely this week, with owner Jonathan Greatorex adding;
“It’s been a pleasure to be there for our rural, isolated community throughout this difficult time. We have served several thousand meals over the past 14 weeks and I’m genuinely proud of everything that we have done. Grant, our Head Chef has worked tirelessly with a daily changing menu to provide takeaway foods and we’re looking up to now opening up again, safely and securely.”
Chair of the This Is Wrexham Tourism Partnership, Sam Regan has faced his own challenges in re-opening the Lemon Tree Restaurant with Rooms in Wrexham with the enforced regulations.
“At the Lemon Tree, we were just nearing completion on a new-build for 8 extra bedrooms, with occupancy due to have started in April. The increase in local tourism gave us the confidence to make this investment, so it’s going to be vital that ourselves and other local tourism businesses really demonstrate the first class COVID-safe measures that we have been working hard on behind the scenes to make the return of guests as safe as possible from August. As a Tourism Partnership, we’ve also engaged on a daily basis with Visit Wales and tourism businesses across the local area to provide knowledge, advice and insights alongside the Local Authority to enable the sector to build back better and save as many jobs as possible.”
Lead Member for the Economy at Wrexham County Borough Council, Terry Evans met with several tourism businesses across the local area last Friday and said;
“It really has struck me just how much behind the scenes work has been carried out by all of the businesses which I’ve visited or engaged with over recent months in order to keep guests safe. We’ve worked hard to seek clarity from Welsh Government to save this sector which pulls in over £130m per year for Wrexham’s economy and supports over 1,600 full-time jobs. It’s vital that we do all that we can to encourage visitors back to the area in a safe and responsible way this summer to enjoy many of our town centre and rural attractions and the exceptional hospitality on offer here in Wrexham County Borough”.
With the 5-mile rule now allowing visitor traffic back into Wales and the outdoor and self-catering sector re-opening this week, Wrexham County Borough Council is anticipating a steady return of day visitors and staycations this summer. This will also be complemented with the opening of a new larger Visitor Information Centre on Chester Street later in the Autumn, showcasing the very best of the region’s visitor offer alongside a wide range of local food & drink produce.