Much needed tourism boost expected in Lancaster and Morecambe as pubs, hotels and restaurants get set to open
The Lancaster district is expecting a much needed boost to the economy this summer as further Covid-19 restrictions are eased.
Ahead of the May 17 re-opening of hotels, campsite facilities, cinemas, theatres, soft play centres, and pubs and restaurants indoors, the city is preparing for an increased number of people taking 'staycations'.
Around 60 more pubs, restaurants and bars across the city are also set to re-open on Monday following the government's relaxation of Covid rules.
Lancaster House Hotel - as well as The Midland in Morecambe - has already launched recruitment drives to deal with the increased demand.
Andy Lemm general manager at Lancaster House Hotel, said he had seen a sharp increase in both conference business and wedding bookings.
"We’re also seeing a big rise in group bookings for special occasions such as diamond and golden wedding anniversaries and Christenings as people get back together, in many cases for the first time in over a year," he said.
Mark Needham, general manager at The Midland Hotel added: "Compared to 2019 and pre-Covid, we're almost 40% up on forward bookings for the next 12 months, and pretty much at full capacity for the first three weeks when we re-open.
"We're looking to strengthen our team to meet these increased business levels. We're recruiting in food and beverage in particular and that includes a couple of senior roles."
Other pubs and restaurants are also gearing up to allow groups of up to six or two households back inside again for drinks and meals.
Many without outdoor facilities have remained closed since last year.
Tim Tomlinson, chair of Lancaster Pubwatch and landlord of three city pubs, said that around 60 more pubs, bars and restaurants across Lancaster would be re-opening on Monday.
"The last month has been without doubt quite strange," he said.
"Whilst the first three weeks fortunately remained dry but chilly, the last week or so has been impossible to plan for with rain, hail, sun, gales and sometimes all four at once.
"What is certain now is that everyone in the hospitality sector, and all their suppliers, are looking forward hugely to next week, taking a massive step towards something we can call normal.
"As best we understand it there will still be rules, similar to those when we re-opened last summer.
"Table service only, a max of six or two households per table inside, no loud music or TV sport, track and trace for every customer and masks if you have to move around the premises.
"One thing we do request as a group is that customers please remember that bars and restaurants are all still dealing with slightly strange and more complicated ways of working due to the government rules we are obliged to follow.
"This may mean on occasion slightly longer wait times that you would normally be used to and there may be the odd small cock up as we get back up to speed again, so please be patient and recognise that the staff are trying their very hardest and they didn't make the rules so please don't take it out on them.
"We are really excited to be welcoming everyone back, it will be a little weird at first but once we've got our feet under the table I am sure we will all be enjoying the city and seeing our friends out and about once again."
Several pubs and venues have already announced gigs and shows as residents are urged to "support your local and keep music alive".
Alan Archer, from Red Bank Farm Campsite and Archer's Cafe in Bolton-le-Sands, said he was looking forward to re-opening the cafe indoors on May 17, as well as being able to offer toilet and shower facilities on the campsite.
"We're fully booked for the next Bank Holiday and expecting to be busy across the whole of the summer," he said.
And Paul Bury, director at The Lothersdale in Morecambe, said: "The advance bookings for this year are looking very positive and ahead of normal trends with longer lead times and increased demand as people treat themselves to several 'staycations' rather than one longer foreign holiday.
"What we are expecting, backed up so far by the bookings we've seen, is that the area will see a surge in demand from domestic leisure bookings with an increased stay duration as the UK public chooses to stay within the UK this year shunning foreign travel.
"With life celebratory events not being able to take place over the past year this has also led to a significant increase in demand for family gatherings from late June onwards."
Lancaster City Coun Merv Evans, cabinet member with responsibility for economic recovery and resilience, said that the district is ready to welcome people back, with a note of caution.
He said: “The lockdown has been frustrating for everyone and we know that people will be desperate to get out and about and visit the beautiful and historic destinations that our district has to offer.
“We’re poised for an increase in the number of people taking ‘staycations’ and this will provide a much-needed boost for local businesses and our economy.
"It will remain important for some time yet for us all – visitors and residents alike – to remain cautious and reduce the risk of us catching and spreading Covid-19.
"The ‘Hands, Face, Space’ instruction is still essential to keep us all safe.
“Along with our partners in the wider public sector we will be taking a proactive approach to promoting and protecting public safety, including working with local businesses and our nationally recognised Covid Safe scheme, to ensure an enjoyable, welcoming and safe experience for all.”
Covid-19 cases in the Lancaster district are slightly above the national average, with a rolling rate of 28.1 per 100,000 in the week up to May 5.