The owners of a glamping retreat on the Warwickshire Oxfordshire border have vowed to maintain their enhanced Covid restrictions despite the end of legislation from today (Monday July 19).
The decision is aimed to reassure guests against a backdrop of rising infection rates across the country as the vaccination programme continues to be rolled out.
Due to the enhanced cleaning regime, the business will maintain its later check-in times and there are no plans yet to reintroduce the fabric furnishings, books, games and toys which were removed under the previous restrictions.
Welcome baskets in all the lodges will continue to include only single-packaged items and staff will wear full PPE. There are also sanitiser stations throughout the site.
While Jo Carroll, co-owner of Winchcombe Farm Holidays in Upper Tysoe, has welcomed the easing of restrictions, she fears it may not mean an end to the business challenges ahead.
She said: “While the pandemic is by no means over, we are pleased to see a change to some of the rules we have been working to over the last few months.
"But we go forwards from Monday very much with cautious optimism.
"The current extremely high infection rates are worrying and will no doubt lead to another wave of cancellations and dent consumer confidence.
“Our housekeeping costs have doubled, as we maintain cleaning standards dictated to us by Visit England, but we have decided to retain the same rigorous regime for many more months to come.
"It is essential that our guests feel our accommodation is clean, safe and secure in the current climate.”
Winchcombe has been closed for eight of the last 16 months, costing Jo and partner Steve Taylor, tens of thousands of pounds in lost business.
The couple received emergency support from the Government’s Hospitality Grant Scheme – which covered all their basic utility bills – plus free business rates, but fell into the 10 per cent of workers who didn’t qualify for any personal financial help.
The family-run retreat finally reopened to guests in April following a sustained six-month period of closure, but bookings which continued to contravene the Covid-19 regulations along the Government’s roadmap, resulted in more refunds.
Jo said: “For the last few months, we have only been permitted to have six people from six different households or two households in a holiday lodge at any one time.
"This has caused a logistical nightmare for some of the large group reservations, and we’ve cancelled many bookings as a result - refunding thousands of pounds to customers in order to ensure that we didn’t break the rules.
“We've also jumped through hoops to ensure that we have track and trace information for every single guest aged over the age of 16, which has taken hours and hours of admin time.”
And, for the mum of two, both the business and personal sacrifices have, at times been a difficult pill to swallow.
She said: “It was extremely frustrating to see that 66,000 people were allowed to gather at Wembley to watch the Euro 2020 final when we weren't allowed to have seven people staying together in a holiday lodge in a remote rural location.
“We were not even allowed to attend our children’s sports days this year due to Covid, however thousands of people descend on Wimbledon for the tennis.
"There does seem to be some definite disparity in the rules.”
The couple, who established their glamping business just over two years ago on the foundations of their former privately-run nursery, currently have five lodges and a tree house for guests on their farm, including the recently opened Jess’ Tree Bach.
For more information go to: http://winchcombefarm.co.uk/