Hospitality bosses in South Tyneside say they are in ‘desperate need of being able to operate again’ after much of last year was affected by the pandemic.
Details regarding floated ‘Covid passports’, which would allow vaccinated UK citizens to travel abroad to certain countries, are expected to be soon announced by Boris Johnson.
But, buoyed by the rate of the area’s vaccine delivery, some accommodation owners believe that brighter days are in the offing for South Tyneside’ visitor economy.
Paul Fletcher, who runs the Kingsmere Guest House with his partner, remains hopeful punters will be drawn towards the area over the coming months.
“We have a lot of regulars - people coming up to visit family and friends, mainly - who we’ve not seen in a long time now, but who we expect will return as soon as it’s possible to again,” he told The Gazette.
"Until we’re safe to start welcoming visitors back, it’s really just a question of keeping heads above water. We really hope this is possible by April – for most of us in the town, our season starts at Easter and goes on until the end of August.
"We lost nearly all of that last year. But we’re optimistic things could be different in 2021 and 2022 – with people flooding our towns to have those two-, three-, four-day-long breaks. We have lots going for us as a town – so that’s the kind of optimism we’ve got to hold on to.”
Terry Maughan, owner of the Grotto at Marsden Bay, is hoping for an Easter start as his establishment looks to recover from the setbacks faced by the industry last year.
“It’s really key for us to get going again in time for Easter,” he said.
“When we came out of lockdown last year, we were really busy. From April onwards, we’re hoping there’ll be a similar influx of visitors – and I think the ‘staycation’ trend will help with that.”
Lorraine Grover, who owns the South Shore Guest House on Ocean Road, is less hopeful staycation holidaymakers or the Government’s exit plan will usher in a turnaround in fortunes for small businesses like hers.
"I think it’s more likely people looking to holiday in the UK this summer will flock to bigger tourist spots like Northumberland and the Lake District,” she said.
“We’re in desperate need of being able to operate again and of an uptick in business in the medium term – but I’m not confident Boris Johnson’s speech is going to be the turning point for all that to happen.
"It’s just really difficult at the moment not knowing one way or the other.”
Elmswood Guest House owner, Nisha Moore, said: "One of the problems we had last year when they made the tier announcements was that only key workers were allowed to travel.
"For B&Bs like mine, that wasn’t much good. A full reopening would be brilliant, but I can’t see that happening.