Discover Rutland reports that tourism is bouncing back
Despite the chilliest May bank holiday on record, Rutland’s tourism businesses are bouncing back following the latest easing of lockdown measures.
In a survey of its members, Discover Rutland, whose website visits increased by 70 per cent during April, has found that the businesses offering outside activities are the first to benefit from more relaxed measures with some even reporting it's ‘business as usual'.
According to Steve Makey, director of Rutland Water Golf Course, not only were existing customers desperate to get back to playing golf but, as one of the first sports to unlock, the business is even attracting new clientèle.
“As far as golf is concerned, it’s back to normal and we’ve been welcoming both members and non-members back to the course,” he said.
“We’ve noticed that more families are taking part, some for the first time as it’s a sport they can do together, and younger people too.”
Steve added that he’s looking forward to welcoming even more customers when lockdown restrictions ease further to enable the waterside business to open its rooms and restaurants.
Rutland Cycling is also reporting soaring demand as, having been fortunate to be deemed an essential business and with their online bike sales, they’ve operated during the last twelve months.
David Hicks, marketing manager said: "We’ve seen huge demand for bicycles as people have looked to get out and about for their fitness, mental health, and to travel during the lockdown periods, and we’ve kept most of our stores open to offer essential services like workshop which have been hugely popular.
“While we saw a lot of our business move online, we’ve seen a real desire for our customers to get back out into shops, particularly since wider retail opened up on April 12 and we’ve seen a real demand for our cycle hire services, particularly at Rutland Water.
“We’re blessed with some amazing facilities and outdoor environments across our network, and people have definitely been keen to make the most of those locations on two wheels.”
Like many outdoor attractions, though, footfall is weather dependent.
Staff at Rutland Water Visitor Centre report that the car parks are yet to reach capacity but that visitors have been overwhelmingly respectful of social distancing whilst enjoying themselves.
As is fitting for the ‘County of Good Taste,’ pub and restaurant businesses opening their outdoor spaces have been delighted by the support their customers have shown.
Ben Jones, co-owner of The Olive Branch, Clipsham, said that despite a rollercoaster year of highs and lows, from total lockdown to winning the Good Pub Guide Pub of the Year Award 2021, business has been good since restrictions eased.
Ben said: “We are very lucky to have both a very loyal clientèle and that our team has demonstrated incredible flexibility throughout."
He added: “We are incredibly grateful to our wonderful guests and are only sorry we couldn’t accommodate more. We are all looking forward to welcoming guests overnight, Government restrictions permitting, from May 17.”
Whilst still unable to offer meals indoors, Ben and his team are serving two sittings in private gazebos within 'tented village in the garden'.
They have also put up a small marquee in the paddock so after dinner coffees can be served in a relaxed environment too.
Jason Allen, chairman of Discover Rutland and owner of both The Fox pub and restaurant in North Luffenham and The Paddock campsite near Lyndon, says that he’s been hugely encouraged by customer support so far.
“As a business owner, we’ve been chomping at the bit to open again and can’t wait to get back to normal once restrictions lift further on May 17 all being well.”
Again, although the popular village pub near Rutland Water is still unable to offer indoor dining due to Government restrictions, Jason and his team have been serving up to 60 customers on a busy weekend day, despite a reduced menu and slightly shorter opening hours.
“There’s been a huge appetite amongst customers to support local businesses which is so encouraging after a challenging year for the hospitality industry,” he said.
According to Jason, and a trend borne out by other businesses offering camping and caravanning accommodation, demand this year has been unprecedented.
“We’ve been trading for ten years and are fully booked until mid-July.”
To plan your Rutland itinerary visit www.discover-rutland.co.uk.