Torbay tourist attraction owner Richard vows to fight back

The Bygones tourist attraction in St Marychurch

The Bygones tourist attraction in St Marychurch - Credit: Archant

Richard Cuming runs a top tourist attraction in Torbay.Coronavirus has turned his world upside down but he is determined to fight back

Bygones owner Richard Cuming who is determined to battle on

Bygones owner Richard Cuming who is determined to battle on - Credit: Archant

Bygones has been run by the Cuming family for three generations. Owner Richard Cuming is at the helm of the well-known and popular tourist attraction in Babbacombe and has played a significant and leading role in Torbay's tourism and hospitality industry for several years.

Here he describes how one day in March his business and world was turned upside down .... but he is determined to fight back.

'2020 actually started rather well with a record number of group bookings secured, a new range of stock ordered, and we had set up a new section selling original military medals.

'We had completed a major refurbishment of our café. I was even looking forward to a March holiday in the sun before the season.

'The days following the Government's initial recommendation in the wake of the Coronavirus alert to the public not to visit attractions saw a steady fall away of footfall.

'Our international student group business which traditionally operates during the spring and early summer had also started to be cancelled.

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'When the current restrictions came into place on March 21 we were suddenly left with virtually no revenue.

'Since March 21 we have been very busy working to secure our long-term viability. We have been able to retain all our staff furloughed but on full pay thanks to the Government's short-term job retention scheme. The one-off grant and business rates 12-month holiday have given us some breathing space. There are still many fixed costs.

'We are almost entirely reliant for our revenue from tourists and residents actually visiting our attraction.

'We have lost all our national and international group tour business for the majority of the year, but we are busy working with them to secure 2021 bookings and building on these long-term established relationships.

'Even operating a public-facing business, technology and the ability to utilise this remotely is another challenge. One early lesson is the need to have more technology available at home.

'We have recently launched an online shop which remains open to sell our most popular stock items and a wide range of original British military medals and cap badges. This is another area we intend to build on as it's the only revenue we can get in.

'By far the greatest challenge we face is not knowing when we will be able to open again. We still rely on the bulk of our trading during school holidays and the peak summer. Having already lost much of our group business in the shoulder months we need to secure revenue in those peak weeks.

'We are lucky to live and work in our beautiful Bay and I have always believed that working together is good business practice and that is even more important right now. I represent the English Riviera Attractions Partnership discussing issues and concerns with our MP Kevin Foster along with my role as a Director of the ERBID company.

'Many organisations and individuals such as the Torbay Business Forum , Torbay Council , the Bay's two MPs, South Devon College and of course the newly launched Torbay Weekly are all playing a vital role.

'All the brilliant, front line staff in our NHS and blue-light and service sectors are working incredibly hard to save lives and that should also be a focus along with the economic impact.

'Bygones was set up over 30 years ago and for many generations my family have established and run many different retail businesses. They have traded and survived through two World Wars (along with family members serving in our armed forces during these periods), world depressions and previous pandemics .

'I am sure there are going to be many more challenges, difficult decisions and setbacks over the next few weeks and months, but I am determined to get past these and rebuild again. The whole tourism sector, so important to the Bay's future prosperity, will need short term support to survive and residents visiting them will be crucial this year.

Working together we can build a better, stronger and more affluent Bay.

We continue to plan improvements, events and promotions to hit the ground running from day one when we are able to reopen and especially look forward to welcoming residents to us here in 1897!