Caravans all over the country have been basking in the summer sunshine and perhaps even gathering a little dust on driveways, in storage compounds and on sites, waiting for their owners to unlock their doors so they can go touring post-lockdown.
Now they might not have so very long to wait. If the country can meet the five tests laid down by the UK Government for the road to recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, the hospitality industry can look with hope towards July as a possible date for resuming business – at least in England.
This will be good news for campsites, desperate to claw back revenue lost during the best spring we’ve had for years, and great news for all of us, desperate to see some different scenery.
People with their own caravan are best placed to enjoy some form of holiday this year. With your ‘home from home’, you know exactly who has used it, so if all of the family are infection-free, the risk of contracting the virus inside your tourer is low.
It helps, too, that for health and safety reasons, the recommended minimum distance between pitches is six metres. Caravan owners are onto a further winner of minimising contact with infection if they have their own facilities.
How will campsites reopen?
Businesses everywhere are now having to adapt to accommodate social distancing, to minimise the risk of spreading the virus. For campsites, that might mean keeping facilities closed, or adopting some measures used by supermarkets, such as Plexiglass screens in reception. Distance markers are being placed outside reception, shops and washblocks, and hand sanitiser stations provided outside washblocks and reception. Cleaning is being carried out more frequently during the day, and on-site cafés, restaurants and bars are operating takeaway services only.
There will also be some restrictions on neighbourly gatherings, and campsites might decide on having more distance between units, by taking in fewer guests over a set period of time.
There shouldn’t be very much competition for pitches from European visitors, however, because everyone who entered the UK, by whatever means of transport, after 8 June will have to self-isolate for 14 days and declare on a form where they will be staying.
For the UK hospitality industry, 4 July (read our latest News story) is the absolute earliest opening date, and this might also be phased, depending on how different areas are being affected by the virus.
For the latest information on lockdown measures and restrictions in each UK country, see www.gov.uk/coronavirus for England, https://tinyurl.com/y7mhv6ev for Scotland, https://gov.wales/coronavirus for Wales, and https://tinyurl.com/yby7h7h4 for Northern Ireland.
Campsites post lockdown
No matter where you’d like to travel, it’s clear campsites all over Britain are very keen to welcome back visitors, but they are waiting for Government guidelines before they commit to measures that will facilitate this.
Changes have already been implemented by some, however. Back of Beyond campsite, in East Dorset, has installed screens and a split door in reception, so people can safely use the shop.
The site is also planning contactless check-in, but admits the main problem is the washblock; it awaits Government guidance to address this. Lockdown has given the staff time to carry out extensive maintenance, including extra water points, and everything has been freshly painted.
Time on their hands has led to brilliant creativity, too: a new outdoor bar has been built using logs from the woods, with old wine bottles and copper piping as lighting. The plan is to sell local beverages wherever possible, and because this is an outdoor bar, visitors will be able to enjoy a drink there while maintaining appropriate social distancing.
Social distance camping
South Lytchett Manor, in Dorset, is introducing a raft of changes in preparation for receiving guests. Arrivals will be dealt with outside, rather than in reception, and more information will be sent out electronically before visitors arrive, including a document on how to enjoy your stay at the site safely.
Floor markings denoting 2m distances will be in place in all indoor areas and outside amenity blocks, the shop and Elsan/waste/water points. Guests will be asked to call reception in the first instance, rather than visiting, and staff will have personal protective equipment.
Plexiglass is to be installed in reception and guests will be asked to use cashless payment methods where possible. The site has identified a list of touchpoints and high-risk areas and will be cleaning these more often, and putting up signs to encourage guests to wash their hands after touching any communal facility.
Information will be provided via a noticeboard, rather than leaflets for guests to peruse, and more of it will be made available digitally.
Poston Mill, in Herefordshire, is looking forward to seeing people arriving at the barrier once more and hearing voices around the park. The team has been busy testing and checking utilities, and cutting the grass and watering, and preparations will continue during June.
The campsite is experiencing a very high volume of bookings from touring customers, but for the first week, the number of pitches will be limited while new safety measures and facility rotas are tested.
Site facilities should be open fully in August, if not before, while the shop will open for orders only, not browsing. The Mill restaurant will open to provide takeaway meals and drinks, which can be consumed in the beer garden or on the lawn.
Concierge Camping in West Sussex, our overall winner in this year’s Top 100 Sites Guide, is also keen to welcome back visitors. The site is located right on the edge of the beautiful South Downs National Park, close to Chichester and the Witterings. Its fully serviced, hardstanding pitches are set nine metres apart and are surrounded by 8ft-high hedges.
The team is awaiting Government guidelines on how the five-star washblock should be adapted, although with most caravans and motorhomes having their own facilities, they are not unduly worried.
The site has readdressed the risk assessment and there will be new terms and conditions in place. For example, says owner Guy Hodgkin, if they are allowed to open the washblock and visitors do not use the hand sanitiser placed at the entrance on their way in and out of the facilities, they will be asked to leave.
Guy and Tracey Hodgkin also have several mobile en-suite units – providing shower, toilet and handbasin – on order, to be positioned on-pitch for those who don’t want to use their caravan’s or the campsite’s facilities.
In addition, the site is installing Plexiglass in the reception area. You can discover more about what the team at Concierge Camping have been up to during the lockdown at https://tinyurl.com/y9dzpxal.
Life after lockdown
The Camping and Caravanning Club reckons on losses of £25m with campsites remaining closed until early July. If local councils allow, some sites might decide to extend their season to make up part of the shortfall.
There is also a proposal from Visit Britain, now under consideration by the Government, to have an additional bank holiday in October, to support the hospitality and retail industries.
According to analysis carried out by The Independent, with wellbeing so high on the agenda, the country and individuals would benefit from such a move.
Everyone is now trying to adjust to the new normal, and being able to include holiday options will make it all so much more bearable. So roll on, July, even with stricter regulations – the reopening of campsites will be warmly welcomed by many.
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Floor markings denoting 2m distances will be in place in all indoor areas and outside amenity blocks, the shop and Elsan/waste/water points