South Tyneside accommodation providers report mixed summer fortunes since trading restrictions lifted
Hotel and guest house owners in South Tyneside have reported mixed fortunes over the course of a challenging summer for the area’s visitor economy.
During the spring months, those running B&Bs and other hospitality venues in the borough were mainly optimistic that the summer’s predicted ‘staycation boom’ would help the sector begin to recover, after more than a year of almost complete inactivity.
Restrictions on the sector’s operations, which a number of local traders had claimed were pushing their businesses to the brink, were finally lifted on the Government’s delayed ‘Freedom Day’ last month.
But soaring infection rates in the region, which saw South Tyneside’s case levels among the highest in the country earlier this summer, have presented fresh challenges for hospitality operators locally.
Staff shortages have also been compounded as the consequences of Brexit on the labour market began to be felt this summer across a number of sectors – tourism having been one of the hardest hit among them.
Despite these difficulties, though, the Grotto venue at Marsden Bay reports having witnessed a welcome return to ‘pre-pandemic’ levels of custom.
"It’s been really busy,” said owner, Terry Maughan.
"We had something of a staggered start – including losing some staff at various points.
"But we’ve come through it all. In particular, some of the investment we put into the hotel – replacing floors, renovating facilities and the like – during the lockdown months have really helped us get back to where we were pre-pandemic after we reopened this year.”
But not all accommodation providers have been so lucky.
The South Shore Guest House on Ocean Road has been unable to reopen its doors during the summer months due to staff shortages, according to owner, Lorraine Grover.
“It’s just been too difficult to find the workers to be able to reopen,” she said.
"So it looks like we’ll remain closed for the next month or two, at least.”
The Sandhaven Beach Chalets site, near the South Promenade, were fully booked when business returned to hosting holidaymakers in April – although it too has since felt the pinch of the ‘pingdemic’ locally.
According to the business’ owners, however, the accommodation has continued to reach fully capacity with ‘back-to-back’ reservations throughout the entire school summer holiday period.
“We’ve had pretty much back-to-back seven-night stays,” said Carleigh McCleod, who co-manages the beach chalets.
"It’s been difficult when staff have had to isolate. When they’ve been forced to self-isolate, I’ve had to step in and cover at certain points.
"But we’re still getting people from across the country. After the next few weeks, we expect things will finally calm down a bit. But it’s been a very busy summer for us.”