Martin and Kim - back to doing what they do best

Couple who run holiday business

A team: Martin and Kim - Credit: Submitted

Martin Brook and his wife Kim are back doing what they and hundreds of others do best - welcoming visitors to our Naturally Inspiring English Riviera.

But he will be the first to admit that the past year and running a business in the tourism and hospitality which has been battered black and blue by the pandemic has not been easy. In fact, it has been touch and go for many as lockdowns forced them to shut their doors.

Martin says jokingly: "I am a grockle of 24 years! I came for a holiday in 1997 up at Barton Hall. My wife fell in love with the place and asked if we could move down with our five youngers in tow. We did and two decades plus on I cannot think of a better place to live, work and play.

"The English Riviera must be the best place in the whole United Kingdom to operate a hospitality business – absolutely everything anyone could ask for within a few miles radius."

Guest house sign

Welcome back! - Credit: Submitted

Martin branched into the tourism industry in 2009, setting up Pilgrims Rest Cottages - three self-contained holiday cottages formed within the restored barns of Torbay’s oldest residency, The Old Manor Farmhouse dating back 500 years at Barton in Torquay !

He says: "To be fair everything went from strength to strength until the evil Covid landed on our shores. When we went into the first lock down, for us and countless thousands of other businesses, it was like having the metaphorical heart attack – without some skilful help administered to these patients, tragedy would strike."

He has nothing but praise for Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak and others who have fought the good tourism fight.

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Martin says: "Along came the ‘Boris and Rishi’ duo like a cavalry with their grants, furloughs, loans, eat out to help outs, VAT reduction and the like followed by the incredible English Riviera BID Company in the form of Carolyn Custerton, who became a spokes person into Government and such organisations as Visit Britain with weekly meetings with our great MPs, Kevin, and Anthony, who listened, heard the data, and acted. To be heard, you need some good lungs – we got them in great measure. Quite simply, never have the little people in our industry ever had such a voice."

He adds: "I remember in June last year orchestrating a survey of our hospitality businesses. The picture was very gloomy with potentially 70 per cent in jeopardy by the spring of 2021 (now) if the treatment did not continue. It did, and thankfully, that level of catastrophe has not smashed into our Bay businesses."

He is quick to remind people that his industry supports nearly 25 per cent  of all jobs in Torbay.

"Now we are opening again in Step Two of the Government’s road map of recovery. Across The English Riviera from Barton to Brixham, similar businesses like mine in self-catering and others in the hospitality industry are doing what we do best – welcoming people, to give them all a fantastic time. I cannot wait to pop out  and visit the marques on Babbacombe Downs for a beer or two. Our pubs, restaurants, attractions are doing an awesome job.!"

He emphasises: "Obviously, we and they have introduced all the measures to ensue a Covid Secure environment for our customers. Our customers in turn are having to follow extra rules to ensure the safety of us locals and grockles. Remembering Hands, Face Space, and Fresh Air all in a Responsible measure. All these businesses need us more than ever."

"The road ahead will still not be easy – many aren’t to open until May 17 (hopefully) and even then, will be restricted in how much can open depending of ‘social distancing measures in place then’, " says Martin.

But he says: "Together – whether resident or visitor – we can do it