Written by: Stephen Hargreaves
CEO of Hargreaves Enterprises Ltd & the Cranleigh Boutique
Right now the most important thing we can do is what we’re doing. Staying home. This Easter Weekend was the most surreal one I’ve ever spent, normally a bustling and busy time for the area with visitors from all over the world celebrating spring-time in the Lake District, this year we have asked people to stay away. In such a tourist-driven area like this, it feels counter-intuitive but the Lakes will still be here afterwards. When the time is right, we look forward to welcoming people back. Until then the best way for people to show their appreciation for the Lake District is by staying home, it really is helping to save lives. These times are not only worrying in terms of the nation’s health but also our economy. I employ over 70 staff across my hotels, cocktail bar, nightclub and restaurant. The majority of my team are furloughed with the rest working from home. It is a challenging time but I’m all too aware that unless we all do the right thing that the impact of this terrible virus will be far worse and so, like so many others, my doors are quite rightly closed. But I do wonder what will happen when they open? And how can we prepare for the unknown?
I think it is unlikely that anything will be business as usual very soon, I imagine that ‘re-opening’ will be a slow process with limitations lifted bit by bit rather than all once. Numbers of people in establishments could be restricted, restaurant tables may need to be a particular distance apart. Larger scale gatherings such as concerts and football matches could remain off-limits for a considerable amount of time. Travel may remain constrained, and even though people may be able to go abroad, with pockets tightened I can see a resurgence in the staycation market on the horizon.
The Lake District’s popularity is down to our incredible landscape and cultural heritage, those things will still be here on the other side and will perhaps be more attractive in the short term to UK visitors than overseas. So perhaps now is the time for our industry to be preparing to actively market our area within Britain. My business marketing strategy will be focussing in the short to medium term on encouraging UK visitors, with a longer-term goal of encouraging tourists from overseas. These unprecedented times may mean international social distancing in some form or other and so it makes sense to look within in the immediate aftermath.