Holiday parks, cottages and villa operator Awaze says reassuring local communities that it is safe for tourists to return is its biggest challenge, but one it is confident of meeting.
Henrik Kjellberg, chief executive of the parent of Hoseasons, James Villa Holidays and cottages.com, was speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast about the prospects for this summer and beyond.
He said he was optimistic about the likely restart of domestic travel this summer and that the company will be able to work with park and property owners to bring in social distancing measures.
Awaze operates parks on the continent in Denmark and Holland under its Landal Greenparks brand which have been able to reopen while operating new health and safety protocols.
Kjellberg said the company will take learnings from this and apply them to its UK parks: “I am getting increasingly optimistic about the summer, fingers crossed.
“Should holidays be allowed to proceed in July in a safe and responsible manner, we hope we can bring some much-needed business back to the industry.”
Kjellberg said at one of its biggest Landal Greenparks it has re-opened 30% of bungalows while keeping some communal aeras closed as it implemented new cleaning and sanitation regimes.
He said he was hopefully that more of the park could be re-opened with the right procedures in place, although did not think they’d be able to open 100%.
And he added that it was important for operators to follow local government guidance and to allow local teams to develop and implement the procedures.
“It looks like that hasn’t been a big challenge for us. We’ve been able to solve most of those operational issues, and in a very good way.
“Because of that, where we are now is will public sentiment allow it, which, I think, is probably the biggest question mark.
“Will people in the Lake District be happy to have people come, will people in Cornwall feel good about it?
“So, much like with the teachers allowing schools to come back, I think, public sentiment is probably the biggest barrier.
“We hope to be able to show that we can do it in a responsible way such that public sentiment will hopefully come back because tourism is an incredibly important business for these regions.”
Kjellberg added: “By being clear and open about the standards that we are implementing for our parks and cottages the local community can see we’re doing it in a responsible way.
“And that means the likelihood of transmission is very, very low if we follow the guidelines and if the guests follow the guidelines.”
Kjellberg said should there be high demand this summer in the UK with Brits restricted from travelling overseas there could be a lack of availability and prices might rise.
But he said Awaze is conscious it does not want to be seen to be price gouging and with some parks only partially open it will be making sure pricing reflects that.
“I think availability will be a factor. Whenever we get clear guidance from government that you are allowed to travel people will probably feel comfortable booking.
“So, I do think there will be the possibility of prices going up, but we certainly don’t want to be seen as price gouging.
“There’s a responsibility factor here and for some of the parks if you’re not offering all of the facilities that’s going to create some downward pressure.”
Kjellberg added: “I feel increasingly optimistic about the fact that summer will be on, assuming that all the numbers [relating to the virus] move in the right way.
“That could change, of course, but I’m more optimistic than a couple of weeks ago because the numbers were pretty bleak and there was no indication that anything was going to open.
“If summer in the UK is going to go ahead the best properties, the best parks are going to be sold out in a very short period of time.”
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