Optimism tempered with pragmatism and preparation sees hospitality businesses in Falmouth primed to welcome a wave of holidaymakers from Saturday (July 4).
Against this backdrop, a collaborative Town Team and Business Improvement District (BID) recovery plan is providing additional support, as well as guidance on the benchmark of best practice for the wider UK place industry, as the town continues to work through this testing time.
In a sector where deep-cleaning is a given, deep and repeated sanitisation and disinfection is now another crucial, and required, layer in measures for safeguarding workers and visitors alike as Falmouth-based hotels, pubs, guesthouses and restaurants, all of whom are reliant on the visitor economy, prepare to open their doors.
Alongside the optimism, there are understandable concerns about a ‘second wave’ being introduced to the area, as well as natural business worries about how the new measures will affect both financial bottom lines, and also employment options – all of which makes the ongoing collaborative support and joint-working with the Falmouth BID, Falmouth Town Council and Cornwall Council so vital.
The Town Team is also pressing for the enactment of the Government mooted ‘al fresco revolution’ which would allow restaurants and pubs to increase their outdoor space by putting tables on public spaces like car parks and pavements – a measure seen as essential for the survival of businesses like Indidog Eatery.
“We opened last summer after a heavy investment in a derelict building in a beautiful location in central Falmouth and then Covid happened,” said owner Vanessa Clark, “and unfortunately because we’re so new we have slipped through every supportive gap and received zero funding.
“So, what we’re looking to now is to capitalise on the Government announcement to alfresco dine. So, let’s have an alfresco revolution and access the car park in Falmouth Church Street as quickly as possible. We’ve had a lot of support from the town council and Falmouth BID they’ve been amazing and what we now need is for them to be enabled to do that really, really quickly so that we can open up on the 4th July so we can open up outside and extend our interior.”
Pubs like the Working Boat, part of the Greenbank Hotel on Falmouth’s harbour front, recognise that they are fortunate to own extensive outdoor space – in their case a private quay on which now sits an airy marquee enabling them to safely serve food and drinks without actually opening the pub building
MD Ben Young said: “We’ve got a very mature management and supervisory team who have been consistent for a number of years now. We’re well used to dealing with the Sea Shanty Festivals, the Falmouth Week festivals everything else that Falmouth’s famous for and does so well – so we’re confident we can come back with a vengeance with a team that knows what it’s doing, and we’ve got no plans to lose any positions at all in the hotel.”
However, a critical business area, dealt a ‘blow’ by the Government’s announcements last week, are those who have a spa, health club, gym or personal therapy at their heart of their operation.
Spas, pools, gyms and health clubs must remain closed for now, causing critical concerns for hotels and leisure providers such as market-leading resorts like St Michaels, which overlooks Falmouth’s Blue Flag status Gyllyngvase Beach.
The resort has invested more than £9 million in its new bedrooms, luxury leisure and wellbeing facilities in the last four years alone and is ‘hand-tied’ at present, not being able to open either its spa or extensive health club, both key visitor attractor elements of its operation.
Peter Churchill, head of operations, said: “The health club and the spa, to give you some figures, makes up a huge chunk of our bottom line for the resort and without these facilities open we won’t be a resort that will stay open. So, speaking to the national governing bodies and getting their advice, we take all their advice for safety and we’ll open when they tell us to but we’re really dependent on being open soon.”
Their cause is among the multitude taken up by the Falmouth Town Team, the destination management partnership between Falmouth BID and Falmouth Town Council, which is lobbying hard for the safe but speedy reopening of leisure facilities. As well as sitting on the local authority’s ‘Recovery Business Cell’ and alongside key tourism bodies and representatives to proactively overcome the challenges facing the region, the team are working diligently to ensure that the Falmouth re-opening and ‘bounceback’ is as swift, and as successful as possible.
The Town Team has already showcased its Positive Engagement Plan with Cornwall Council, BIDs across the south west and beyond with a series of toolkits to help town centre shops and businesses hit the road running when they opened up on June 15. The latest, a Hospitality Toolkit will be sent out to the sector this week.
From branded hand sanitisers installed throughout the town and a new hope-filled ‘Falmouth, Spirit of the Sea’ rainbow logo, to liveried posters, window decals and informative signs at key locations to guide shoppers on social distancing, the combined effort is aimed at an optimistic and reassuring view to the future of this year-round seaside town.
Falmouth BID manager Richard Wilcox said: “Falmouth has been on the front foot with a partner-led approach – business and resident communities working alongside the Falmouth Town Team to meet the challenge head on and as effectively as possible. A huge amount of planning and provision has gone on behind the scenes to make Falmouth safe and welcoming to our local and further afield visitors – but of course the responsibility lies in all of us. That social responsibility, self-regulatory as it were, is absolutely vital through this process.”
A straw poll of Falmouth residents encapsulates the hopes and ongoing wariness within communities as holiday areas across the UK prepare to welcome an influx of visitors.
Jones Oviawe said: “Obviously a lot of the shops and the retail and tourism is quite big for the region so I’m optimistic and quite happy some of the retailers are getting an opportunity to see some custom.
“Obviously, I’m quite tentative because there’s a large older age demographic in Falmouth and I know they’ll be a bit anxious and wary about that as well. But hopefully it’s not too much of an influx and all the retailers and shops have done what they can to maintain the distance and we can find a rhythm.”