A fanfare welcome awaits the first guests arriving back at Winchcombe Farm on Monday, marking the end of the latest six-month of closure for the business.
The five-star glamping retreat, in Upper Tysoe, will greet guests with an exclusive brass band concert on their duck pond as part of a special celebration of their reopening.
The family-run self-catering holiday accommodation is among those businesses which have been given the green light to reopen from April 12th as part of the Government’s latest easing of COVID-19 restrictions in England.
First returning guests will be treated to a rendition by Leamington’s Royal Spa Brass Band at midday as well as refreshments, including cup cakes, courtesy of White Hyacinth Cake Design in Whatcote.
Winchcombe Farm has been closed for eight of the last 12 months, costing owners Jo Carroll and Steve Taylor hundreds of thousands of pounds in lost business. Now the couple say they hope a surge in ‘staycationers’ will help them bounce back from the latest in a series of lockdowns.
But it’s not been quite business as usual forecast for the Jo and Steve who say they’ve still had to refund tens of thousands of pounds in bookings which contravene COVID-19 rules that continue to be in place.
Jo said: “Consumer confidence is high and we have massive surges of bookings whenever there is a Government announcement, giving people a light at the end of a very long tunnel.
“We are anticipating a very busy summer, with July and August pretty much fully booked. We feel quietly confident about reopening on Monday – although we still have a myriad of restrictions in place, which make trading difficult.
“The complex rules about who can and can’t travel between 12th April and 21st June have been a nightmare to work through with our guests, to make sure they and we are compliant.”
She added: “We’ve had to cancel and refund several group stays as they contravene the Rule of 6 or two households rule. Explaining why we can’t host a group of eight teachers in one of our lodges for a weekend [it breaks to Rule of 6] when they all work together every day – using the same toilet and kitchen – is tricky.
“I think it would be fair to say that the general public find the rules baffling – and we do too, as we welcome guests from Scotland and Wales – both of which have different rules to England!”
The couple, who established their glamping business just over two years ago on the foundations of their former privately-run nursery, currently have four lodges and a tree house for guests on their farm. Work on opening a sixth lodge this spring, called Jess’s Tree Bach, recently resumed after originally having to be shelved due to the pandemic.
The entrepreneurs received emergency support from the Government’s Hospitality Grant Scheme – which covered all their basic utility bills – plus free business rates, but fell into the 10% of workers who didn’t qualify for any personal financial help.
Jo added: “There’s no doubting that the pandemic has had a catastrophic effect on the whole of the hospitability sector, especially in Stratford-upon-Avon, where the tourist economy supports over 8,000 jobs.
“The success of the vaccine rollout, coupled with the uncertainty around foreign travel restrictions, should help the self-catering sector start to make up for some lost ground in the next few months.”