Wales Online

Campsites and caravan parks: The little slices of tourist heaven that nobody is able to enjoy right now

Wales Online logo Wales Online 24/05/2020 06:00:00 Bethan Thomas
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Burrowed on a hilltop overlooking the beautiful Welsh coast and the Gower Peninsula, Three Cliffs Bay Holiday Park is usually a peaceful haven for holiday makers.

After a gloriously sunny Easter and May so far, this bank holiday weekend would usually have seen the holiday park full, with tourists venturing to the area to soak up the spectacular scenery surrounding the Gower.

But like so many other things in our lives which coronavirus has affected, this year things are very different.

Lockdown restrictions have changed the face of holiday destinations in Wales. Where locals once welcomed and relied on visits from out-of-towners, now the premise of tourists flocking to the area is enough to cause uneasiness, to say the least.

But with so many livelihoods depending on tourists visiting campsites, holiday parks and caravan parks - the alternative doesn't sit much better with people, either.

Standing empty in the middle of the Gower Peninsula, the Three Cliffs Bay Holiday Park is usually one of the most popular sites in the area.

Thomas Beynon's family have owned the site for the past 75 years. He says one of the pandemic's toughest blows for the industry was its cruel timing.

"It's a recipe for disappointment, really, from a business perspective", he said.

"We don't open until April and then we're only open until October so Easter and May bank holidays are some of our busiest times of the year and that is usually a profitable start to the season."

a man that is standing in the grass: Three Cliffs Bay Holiday Park owner Thomas Beynon at the empty site which would usually be full of tourists © WalesOnline/ Gayle MarshThree Cliffs Bay Holiday Park owner Thomas Beynon at the empty site which would usually be full of tourists a house that has a sign on the side of a building: Easter and May bank holiday are some of the busiest times of the year for the park © WalesOnline/ Gayle MarshEaster and May bank holiday are some of the busiest times of the year for the park

Another hard hit to take has been the good weather during Easter and May which would have, under normal circumstances, incited a business boom for the industry and local, independent businesses.

"The sun's been beating down on the beach and park, the blue skies and views have been amazing, which just adds to the disappointment because it would have filled us with confidence for the rest of the season," he adds.

"There's been a real boom in the industry in the past three years, people are holidaying at home a lot and the quality of sites has increased, the worry is that after lockdown we'll be back to square one."

a group of people standing on a lush green field: The empty holiday park is unrecognisable this season © WalesOnline/ Gayle MarshThe empty holiday park is unrecognisable this season a man standing next to a body of water: Thomas at the site which overlooks the Three Cliffs Bay in Gower © WalesOnline/ Gayle MarshThomas at the site which overlooks the Three Cliffs Bay in Gower

The Welsh Government closed caravan parks and campsites on March 23, just 24 hours after tourist hotspots such as Barry Island were overwhelmed with large crowds of visitors.

Since then, holiday sites have sat idle even though many of the sites are naturally social-distancing friendly. But the worry has remained that crowds would form in tourist hotspots and spread the virus to rural areas and locals.

In a similar situation, nestled in the stunning Oxwich Bay, Greenways of Gower Premier Holiday Park boasts stunning views across the Gower Peninsula that no tourists have been able to enjoy this year.

James Mead, 40, is one of the owners of the site. He said the timing of the virus outbreak has been a nightmare which is likely to have knock-on effects for the entire community, but they would very easily be able to implement social distancing rules if given the go ahead in future.

"There's so many beaches, coastal walks - it's a huge area around here so we are quite lucky that crowds are less likely", he said.

"It would be pretty easy for us to open if we were given the go ahead. By law, plots have to be a certain amount of metres apart so I think it will be a case where there are staggered openings for parts of the site - that could work."

a couple of people that are standing in the grass: Directors Mark and James Mead have been running the park for 24 years © WalesOnline/ Gayle MarshDirectors Mark and James Mead have been running the park for 24 years a large lawn in front of a house: Greenways of Gower Premier Leisure Park © WalesOnline/ Gayle MarshGreenways of Gower Premier Leisure Park a man flying a kite in a field: No visitors have been able to enjoy the stunning views at the park this season © WalesOnline/ Gayle MarshNo visitors have been able to enjoy the stunning views at the park this season

The staggered openings would see parks welcome back visitors who own their own caravans first, then people staying in static caravans then finally opening for campers using shared shower and toilet facilities.

Park owners have also said that upon opening, visitors travelling from afar may be asked not to stop at any service stations on their journey to the park.

However, for small coastal towns - unlike the expansive Gower - flooded with tourists, the risk is even greater.

Tomas Davies and his brother Daniel run Pencnwc Holiday Park in Newquay, Ceredigion. The park boasts around 600 caravans against Newquay's modest population of 1,200, so the summer months can see the small town overflowing with visitors from all over the country.

But the risk of losing business for the whole year places the site owners in between a rock and a hard place.

a man standing in front of a building: Brothers Thomas and Daniel Davies are the third generation to run the park © WalesOnline/ Gayle MarshBrothers Thomas and Daniel Davies are the third generation to run the park a sign above a flower garden: The site has around 600 caravans on site © WalesOnline/ Gayle MarshThe site has around 600 caravans on site

Speaking to WalesOnline earlier this month, the brothers said: "The biggest danger for us is that we have to remain shut for the whole summer and then we are free to open at the end of it, by which time it will be too late for us to make any real money.

"We might have a situation where we face three winters in a row in terms of our incomings: last winter, what we're living through right now, and the winter that is to come.

"We are obviously going to lose money but we need support, and every business is hoping that there will be some flexibility with regards to the furlough scheme. In an ideal world it would be nice to have support until March 2021."

But for Kidwelly campsite owner Irene Law, the risk is too severe to take. As the owner of Faerie-thyme, an independent, three-acre campsite sanctuary nestled in the woodlands and connected to the owner's home, Irene took the decision early into lockdown that the site wouldn't be re-opening this year.

a group of lawn chairs sitting on top of a bench in a park: The site is usually used for events and weddings © Faerie ThymeThe site is usually used for events and weddings a group of giraffe standing on top of a wooden fence: Faerie Thyme is a campsite in the heart of woodlands in Kidwelly © Faerie ThymeFaerie Thyme is a campsite in the heart of woodlands in Kidwelly

"We do a lot of group events, parties and weddings and have people coming from all over the country so it's not worth the risk," she explained.

"Our home is connected to the site and we have vulnerable people living here and I feel like we need to protect them."

Irene said even if the government gave them the go ahead to open to visitors, they would decide to remain closed after tragically losing a family member to Covid-19.

"People think they're untouchable and that it won't affect them until it hits someone they love. For us, keeping our family and loved ones save is the priority.

"We're lucky that we don't employ any staff so we'll just see what happens and fingers crossed be ready to start again fresh next year."

a red train is parked on the grass: The rustic style camping area and vintage caravans are connected to the owner's home © Faerie ThymeThe rustic style camping area and vintage caravans are connected to the owner's home

But for other site owners, plans are being put in place and they're keeping their fingers crossed they will be able to claw back their losses and be given the go ahead to open in time for the summer holidays.

Some site owners are holding on to the silver lining that once lockdown is over, people will be reluctant to holiday abroad and may be eager for a holiday in Wales.

Even now, still in the midst of lockdown, owners have said they are still receiving a number of booking and calls every day.

Three Cliffs Bay owner Thomas said he is confident that once this is over people will be eager to spend time in the countryside.

"I think we see a lot of the negative side but the majority of people know how to manage themselves and fresh air outside will be what people need. We've still been getting calls and enquiries every day, with people eager to come down.

"If we can open for the school holidays and have those six weeks then we'll be in a better position."

James Mead, who has been one of the owners of Greenways of Gower for the past 24 years, agrees that once lockdown is safely lifted they are likely to see an influx of visitors.

"We had a guy on the phone this morning who's booked for mid-July because he said once that green light goes off that it'll be booked up really quickly", he said.

Haven, which owns holiday parks all over Wales including small towns such as Pwllheli and Tenby, announced on May 21 that they are preparing to open parks for July 2.

And earlier this week, British Holiday & Home Parks director wrote a letter to Boris Johnson pleading that parks be allowed to open on June 1.

"We plead for the survival of our businesses and the communities they sustain," said director Ros Pritchard.

But communities agree that lifting some restrictions too early could have catastrophic effects on small towns that rely on tourism; they reiterate that whenever they do re-open, the coastal paths, beautiful beaches, mountains and stunning scenery people enjoy so much will still be there for visitors to enjoy. Just not quite yet.

24. toukokuuta 2020 9:00:00 Categories: - sport - football RTBF Wales Online

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