The Prime Minister’s green light for the July 4 reopening of the tourism and hospitality sector has been welcomed across Torbay. Carolyn Custerson, chief executive of the English Riviera BID Company, writes:

Three months in lockdown has been a huge challenge for Torbay’s tourism and hospitality businesses with much anxiety around cash flow, retaining staff and survival.

Never before had this happened and with no ‘text book’ to refer to as to how to survive Covid-19, hibernation for many of our tourism and hospitality businesses seems to have been the only option and very sad to see, but hopefully now the worst is behind us, we have the green light for July 4.

Saturday, July 4, was the date that the Government set in their ‘road map’ under Phase 3, as the earliest the visitor economy could start to be ‘eased out’ of lockdown and was always a conditional date based on how the virus was performing.

Locally, we had everything ‘crossed’ that July 4 would happen and it is a huge relief that we all listened to the Prime Minister’s announcement earlier this week.

All the businesses that I speak to are taking the reopening very seriously, they know that some residents are nervous so extra special care is being taken to strictly follow the Government protocols especially around enhanced hygiene.

The ERBID Company also made the decision to commission a campaign ‘Responsible Riviera’ highlighting the businesses that have already invested heavily in adapting their businesses to make them Covid secure.

Reopening is so important for the economy of Torbay, with tourism a bed rock industry for hundreds of years and thousands of local jobs dependent on it.

Without any summer income, many of our local and family-run businesses could have faced three winters having not been open since end of last autumn and had to closed permanently.

In the past three weeks we have seen some really shock closures including Shearing’s and Living Coasts which sent shockwaves through the resort, highlighting how fragile an industry we are.

Job losses of between 12,000 and 18,000 are forecast as a result of the impact of Covid-19.

Our recovery is expected to be long and hard.

The role of the ERBID Company is to raise sufficient income to invest in professionally coordinated regional and national advertising.

We are now focusing on just that and immediately launched after the Prime Minister’s announcement a new ‘WELCOME BACK’ to the English Riviera national advertising digital campaign to encourage responsible tourists back to the resort.

Let’s not forget how valuable our visitor economy is - £550m invested every year in direct and indirect visitor spend.

Our objective now is to try and help businesses salvage some summer income to help them through the next winter knowing that this summer will be ‘different’.

Nationally, there is and will continue to be hesitation in traveling away from home so we are predicting less staying visitors than normal, lets give them a warm Welcome.

Moving forwards our focus will also be to campaign and lobby Government for continued support to support those businesses that cannot open yet including our theatres.

Staging live performances has always been one of Torbay’s great strengths and I, for one, am fully behind the Palace Theatre’s poster – the show must go on!