It’s the end for Living Coasts but a new start for other attractions who plead with residents: ‘We need you’

Torbay’s holiday attractions are hoping to put the sad demise of Living Coasts behind them and focus on re-launching their businesses after months of crippling shutdown.

And they have put out a rallying ‘we need you’ shout to the residents of the Bay.

Torbay’s tourism and hospitality sector is hoping the government will soon confirm plans to re-open the sector on July 4. The English Riviera BID Company has launched a campaign to reassure visitors, especially the locals, that everything is being done under a ‘Responsible Riviera’ pledge.

Non-essential retailers were opened across the Bay’s three town centres on Monday with an array of safety measures in place.

But then came news from the Wild Planet Trust that Living Coasts would not be re-opening.

Chief executive Simon Tonge said he was ‘sad’ the decision had to be made. Covid-19 was not entirely to blame. It was more a case of revenues at its sister Paignton Zoo no longer being able to subsidise the Torquay venue.

Mr Tonge assured people: “All the animals will be transferred.”

The future of the Torbay Council-owned site, which will take at least three months to vacate, is up in the air.

Paignton Zoo is geared up to re-open the turnstiles on July 6 after undertaking all the measures required by the government, including a booking system to start with, PPE for staff and social distancing requirements.

Mr Tonge said: “We need the locals to support us now more than ever before.”

Richard Cuming, boss of Bygones in Torquay agreed: “We need residents and day visitors to support us this especially this summer.”

And Nick Powe, of Kents Cavern, said: “Despite the catastrophic impact the crisis has had on the heritage and entertainment industry, and the fact we are now saddled with debt we can hardly afford, it has created opportunities to rethink and reinvent what we do.

“This is how other UNESCO sites manage visitor flows to protect heritage of international value, using pre-booking to control arrivals, manage conservation and enhance the visitor experience. I have wanted to do this for years, but the opportunity was never right. It is now.

“As a business I am confident we will bounce back reasonably quickly, returning to making a significant contribution to the vibrancy of the English Riviera, all year round, something we have been doing successfully for the last 140 years.”