MP Anthony Mangnall: We must prepare for a boom and hope we can make up for those lost months

A steam train going past the beach at Goodrington Sands Photo: English Riviera BID Company

A steam train going past the beach at Goodrington Sands Photo: English Riviera BID Company - Credit: Archant

July 4 is the focal point of almost every conversation I have with businesses, industry leaders, colleagues and ministers.

The machine of state is driving towards that date and looking at innovative ways in which we can reopen as many sectors as possible to fire up the economy.

That date will no longer be just synonymous with American Independence Day but with our own domestic freedom.

Of course, much will depend on our progress through June to ensure that the relaxation of the lockdown can be brought about.

There still remain serious challenges ahead which will need to be addressed before we can experience the 'new normal' lifestyle.

This week (May 25 to 31) is English Tourism Week. Sadly, all our plans to celebrate our vibrant tourism and hospitality sectors have had to be set aside.

These sectors are the lifeblood of our local economy. Tourism across Devon, in particular, supported 65,691 jobs in 2017 with visitor expenditure amounting to £480m in 2016 alone.

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They provide jobs, opportunities and help showcase our incredible coastlines, rich history and promote our culture. They are integral to our very way of life.

We need to accept visitors back into South Devon. This should not be done now, and the guidelines are clear that you should not travel to second homes or undertake overnight stays, but we must be prepared for visitors soon.

Their spending power will be the elixir that we so desperately need to begin the economic recovery and to make up for those lost months.

We must manage the reopening of our park homes, campsites, hotels, pubs and restaurants in a phased and orchestrated way that adheres to Public Health England's guidelines.

Just under one million people visit Devon every year, we can accommodate them once again but under new criteria.

Hotels, restaurants and campsites can all implement safety inducing measures that will protect tourists and our community. A balanced and reasoned system will allow us all to benefit.

Communication will be key and a two-phased approach necessary.

First, a clear understanding for visitors on how to engage and operate under the guidance while on holiday.

It will be for businesses to implement the correct procedure and to follow the hygiene rules to the letter but for visitors to respect and follow that guidance.

The second phase is about ensuring our local community understands that our preparations over the last months will ensure that we are prepared and resilient against any second wave or increase in Covid cases.

There is an understandable concern about the further spread of Covid under the relaxation rules.

However, we will not see our businesses recover if we view every visitor as a virus riddled vessel.

We have been trusting and responsible over the past months, there is no reason to believe that that will stop while the threat remains.

The optimism of UK Hospitality is infectious and perhaps something of a panacea to our future economic difficulties. But if international travel is out and domestic tourism is then South Devon is a pretty good place to spend your holidays.

We must prepare for a boom and hope that we can make up for those lost months.

We may have been kept apart over this time, but our community spirit has been more united than ever.

If we can work together, we can help safely unlock our community and kickstart our economy.