Feature: England's tourist region struggles amid knock-on effect of COVID-19


  • World
  • Wednesday, 29 Jul 2020

LONDON, July 28 (Xinhua) -- Earlier this month, the Eden Project, one of Britain's most famous environmental attractions in southwest England, announced that around 40 percent of its staff would lose their jobs after it lost over 7 million pounds (about 9 million U.S. dollars) in revenue this year due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The site was closed for over three months during the lockdown and reopened on July 4th, but with the prolonged closure and continuing restrictions on visitor numbers, the damage had already been done.

VERY DARK DAY

In a statement, the mayor of St Austell, a town in Cornwall where the attraction is based, described the news as a "very dark day".

The loss of around 220 jobs is not only a blow to those in the local community, but to the wider county of Cornwall, which is famous for its beautiful beaches and has been greatly hit by the lockdown.

"Cornwall generally has had one of the worst experiences economically in the whole country," Tim Dwelly, Cornwall Councillor for Penzance East, told Xinhua.

"So many of our jobs are related to retail, hospitality and visitors. Of course, those are the sectors that have been hard hit," he explained.

Cornwall's economy is largely dependent upon agriculture and tourism, and figures show that it is one of the poorest areas in the country.

"Cornwall is an area of really high tourism, and everyone, not having Easter or that first part of Summer, essentially not having a good three or four months of the season is really difficult," Georgia Butters, English Heritage's Head of Historic Properties in Cornwall, told Xinhua.

DILEMMA IN REOPENING

As lockdown restrictions have eased, and more and more people are beginning to travel into the county from other areas in Britain, there are concerns that new cases of the COVID-19 could reach Cornwall, even though the number of cases here have stayed relatively low compared to the rest of the country.

Last week, ten new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Cornwall and the Isles of the Scilly, marking the biggest jump in cases seen by the region for a number of weeks.

Businesses are keen to see tourists return to the area, but they are also urging people to abide by social distancing guidelines.

"Everybody here, that lives in Cornwall, is really keen to see people visit Cornwall but they want visitors to do so responsibly," said Butters.

"To anyone visiting Cornwall, you need to act responsibly as you would do at home, because this is our home too, and we really want to welcome you to it. We'll be delighted for people to visit, but do so safely," he continued.

KNOCK-ON EFFECT

The COVID-19 lockdown restrictions meant that for months Cornwall fell quiet, and for those in the tourism industry in Cornwall, from now until the end of summer are crucial for their survivals.

"From what I can see, people who rely on the tourism industry are opening their businesses up again and trying to make that money to make it through the winter," said Butters.

Even though the COVID-19 restrictions are beginning to ease now, many are concerned that the knock-on effect will see many more lose jobs before the winter.

"Cornwall Council's own analysis suggests, and this is really worrying, that anything up to one in four jobs will be lost before Christmas," said Dwelly.

"I am worried particularly about younger people, because they're the ones who normally work in the hospitality sector, and in shops," he added.

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