Coronavirus: Tourism 'balancing act' for Ceredigion

Aberaeron, Ceredigion Image copyright Roger Kidd / Geograph
Image caption The harbour at Aberaeron in Ceredigion - a county that avoided the brunt of Covid-19

A county that avoided the brunt of Covid-19 now faces the balancing act of welcoming back tourists - vital to its economy - while keeping people safe.

Ceredigion was praised for its virus response, but will see visitors from areas with higher infection rates when the tourism sector starts reopening.

Accommodation owners want to strike a balance between restarting the industry and protecting people in the area.

First Minister Mark Drakeford has urged visitors to stay safe at beauty spots.

According to figures from Public Health Wales, Ceredigion has seen just 59 confirmed coronavirus cases since the outbreak began - a proportion of 81.2 per 100,000.

This compares with 896.8 per 100,000 in Merthyr Tydfil.

With self-contained accommodation including hotels, holiday lets and caravan parks able to reopen from Saturday, business owners said they were balancing the need to restart the local economy with fears of a second wave of coronavirus.

Zoe Hawkins, operations manager for Mid Wales Tourism, said the industry contributes about £1bn annually to the mid Wales economy and provides 23,000 jobs.

"It's going to be a tentative reopening for many businesses - not all will reopen in this phase," she said.

"Some will only reopen at a reduced occupancy, whatever they feel they can open with that's safe."

Image caption Gareth and Sian Price have decided against reopening their business

Gareth and Sian Price, who own Tynrhyd self-catering holiday cottages in Devil's Bridge, have decided not to reopen.

"It was a really difficult decision," Mr Price said.

"We've thought long and hard about if we can afford to stay closed.

"We looked at the situation in Ceredigion, with it being a very clean county at the moment, and we don't really want to jeopardise that for our local community.

"Looking at the trends in places like Leicester and in parts of Wales too with second waves we're wary that in Ceredigion we probably haven't seen a first wave yet."

'We're never going to get back what we've lost'

Image caption Mark Whitehouse is taking bookings with a strict code of conduct in place for guests

Meanwhile in Powys, which has seen 302 cases so far, the Maesmawr Farm Resort in Caersws is taking bookings.

Owner Mark Whitehouse said the business lost 50-60% of its income during lockdown.

The resort has a code of conduct for guests which includes signing up to the track and trace system, and an emphasis on messages about handwashing, maintaining social distance and respecting the community.

Mr Whitehouse said: "We're in a beautiful part of the country and we've been so lightly affected by this, we're really, really fortunate. And nobody wants to see that change.

"So it is a bit of a balance because we need to fire up the engines again or there'll be no jobs for our staff to come back to, we can't survive forever without income.

"But we've got to balance that with local community concerns as well and make sure that people holiday responsibly and safely.

"We're never going to get back what we lost, but at least we're going to be able to salvage some of the summer.

"We just need to get this right because we can't afford to do it wrong and be locked down again."

Image caption Zoe Hawkins says it's vital to get tourists back safely

Ms Hawkins said welcoming tourists back to stay will be a boost for many small, family-run businesses.

"About 95% of the tourism businesses in mid Wales are independent, micro businesses," she said.

"These are families and communities that completely rely on the tourism sector - people coming in to the area, spending in our local shops, visiting attractions and staying in local accommodation.

"So it's vital we get the tourists back as safely as we can."

The first minister said: "People throughout Wales have done so much over the last few months to follow the rules and help reduce the spread of coronavirus.

"Coronavirus has not gone away and, while the evidence shows the risk outdoors is lower, there is still a risk.

"We therefore need to continue to act responsibly. Be kind to local residents and to fellow visitors by parking considerately, leaving nothing behind and following the recently revised Countryside Code."

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