Restrictions on holidays are being relaxed in Wales this weekend, and many tourism businesses have already seen a boost in bookings.
Three Cliffs Bay Holiday Park on the Gower took 300 bookings in one day, and a company that has 5-star riverside lodges in Denbighshire said they are fully booked until November.
The owner of Brecon Beacons Holiday Cottages, which has 400 properties for hire around the national park, said the business has been “frantically busy” with bookings since the go-ahead to reopen was given.
From today (July 11), holidaymakers are able to stay at cottages, caravans and yurts for the first time since March. Holiday accommodation without shared facilities such as bathrooms are able to re-open.
The re-opening during the summer holiday season comes as a major boost to businesses following months of uncertainty, with the country relying heavily on it.
Tourism supports around 120,000 jobs in Wales – nearly 10% of the country’s workforce – and contributes more than £3 million to the economy.
Now businesses are saying they are ready and are adjusting to the “new normal”.
Tommy Davies runs Coed-Y-Glyn Log Cabins, a set of 5-star riverside lodges in the village of Glyndyfrdwy, Denbighshire.
He said: “We’re doing virtual check-ins now. We’ve only got four lodges so we could usually give it quite a personal touch and either myself or another member of staff will go down and welcome the guest personally, shake their hand, ask how their journey was.
“Obviously we can’t do that anymore. Now we give them pre-arrival emails with all the stuff they would normally get, and FaceTime them when they arrive.
“So what we can’t do is the personal touch, in every sense of the word. So we’ll have to adapt and change.
“This is the new normal.”
Mr Davies said check-in times for the lodges, which are now fully booked until November, have had to be put back an hour to allow a “belt and braces” clean with approved virus-killing products.
Hand sanitiser is given to guests who are asked to strip their bedding themselves after their visit as per industry guidelines.
Elizabeth Daniel, who owns the Brecon Beacons Holiday Cottages, said around 90% of the cottages will be occupied for the first week of re-opening, compared to about 75% at the same period last year – with a notable increase in the number of Welsh guests.
She said virus-killing hand gel will be given to visitors, made by the Penderyn whisky and spirits distillery in Aberdare, while staff will carry out a bacterial clean on top of normal cleaning duties.
But she criticised what she said had been a lack of clarity from the Welsh Government which had caused problems for her business and guests, with the date for reopening changed.
She said: “There was massive confusion, and we ended up upsetting a lot of people who we had booked from Friday, July 10. Then Wales announced the 13th, and then went back to the 11th.”
The re-opening also came as a huge relief to Three Cliffs Bay Holiday Park, near the sandy beach of the same name in Gower, Swansea, which relies heavily on its summer trade.
Due to the current restrictions, the site will only be operating at 15% capacity at first, with 23 motor home and caravan pitches and space for more than 110 tents once shared camping facilities are allowed in Wales from July 25.
Owner Tom Beynon said he felt “blessed” after taking 300 bookings on Friday alone, leading to him having to employ an extra person to man the company’s phone, while his website also crashed due to demand.
The holiday site has been fitted with social distancing signs and protective screens at its site shop, with the reopening also allowing 10 staff members to be brought back out of the usual 16 he employs.
Mr Beynon said: “Being closed has been pretty damaging. We’re one of these businesses that plough on in the winter getting ready to recoup near the summer.
“We, as a family, have worked over a long time to build up the businesses we’ve crafted, but people have really looked after us. You began to wonder would they go to England instead or have done something else, because everyone’s had a tough time.
“We’ve had 300 bookings Friday, five nights per booking, people have really backed us and are booking it as their main holiday. It’s phenomenal, we’ve never experienced demand like that.
“We’re very pleased, and in a lot better shape now than we were on Thursday.”
First Minister Mark Drakeford gave a cautious welcome to visitors and holidaymakers in Wales as he visited The Hide in St Donats, in the Vale of Glamorgan, to see the measures self-contained accommodation is putting in place for the first visitors.
He said: “This crisis has had a profound impact on the visitor economy – at a time when our businesses should have been experiencing a busy Easter, they were turning guests away. We are now cautiously reopening tourism in Wales in a phased way, which will give businesses, staff visitors and communities the confidence for a successful reopening.
“We are looking forward to welcoming visitors back to Wales and to see people from Wales revisiting their favourite places again and discovering new ones.
“Over the summer we want people to visit Wales safely – by looking after their health; protecting this beautiful land and by leaving no trace behind; caring for the countryside by sticking to paths and leaving gates as they are found and keeping dogs on leads. Let us all embrace Wales’ open spaces and avoid crowded areas, wherever we can.
“We can enjoy the best of Wales by choosing local businesses and buying Welsh produce, making a difference to local economies and experiencing the culture and language of Wales and respecting communities which are ready to welcome us back.”
Are you on holiday in Wales? How have you found the new restrictions? Contact reporter Cathy Owen on [email protected] or 02920 243757.