'Excited but anxious' - North Norfolk businesses brace for busy summer
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020
Business owners in Norfolk Norfolk have urged visitors to be respectful of communities and remember the pandemic is not over as they brace for an influx of tourists this summer.
Uncertainty over international travel caused by the coronavirus pandemic means more people than normal are expected to holiday at home this year, providing plenty of trade for businesses in tourism hot spots such as Blakeney, Cromer and Wells but also potentially putting pressure on the area's infrastructure.
Caravan parks have reported "red hot" phone lines with people booking up accommodation while other businesses have reported feeling a combination of excitement and anxiety over what is expected to be an extended summer.
Jason Bean, a partner in the family business, Beans Boats, based at Morston Quay, said he and other seal trip operators were widely expecting this summer to be as busy as last year.
He said: "It's going to be much the same as last year. The area can only house a certain amount of people. Guesthouses, hotels, the only time you are going to get extra people is day-trippers.
"To be honest we are busy most summers, the area is very busy. I think the season will be extended a lot longer, people coming away a bit later, we might go into September and October.
"Most summers are busy but I think this summer will be a bit longer and people have been booked up for ages. But we just don't know, in the middle of the summer something could happen and we could have another lockdown."
Mr Bean said while the season was looking good he was expecting it to be "hard work".
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He said one frequent problem in North Norfolk during the summer was traffic, and he often had to allow half-an-hour to an hour to make the four-mile journey to the quay from the base.
"Traffic is going to be horrendous, that's the big problem, our roads, they can't cope with the capacity, car parking is a struggle, the roads just weren't designed for that number of people," he said.
In Wells, Matt Jarvis, the owner of Wells Deli which is located on the quay, said while it was good to be open and able to welcome customers back inside, it was also "a lot".
He said: "It's a little bit overwhelming, [the summer is] going to be a lot. The pandemic hit everybody in different ways and it's been quite challenging for a lot of people.
"There's a lot of anxious people and it's quite daunting but from a business point of view, it's brilliant, having had so many months of not being able to do anything, it's exciting.
"So we're are excited about people coming, we are anxious about the number of people because we are feeling concerned that people are going to forget about the last year."
Mr Jarvis said the vaccine rollout did a lot to ease concerns and "was one of the only things the government had done right", but still hoped tourists would be "respectful" of the communities they were visiting.
"Last summer it almost felt like it was one in and one out, and I did see lots of the English public doing the things they should not have been doing and that was really off-putting.
"So I hope people are going to be more responsible and remember that it's important to keep safe and Covid is still here."
Along the coast in West Runton, Fred Askew, the general manager of Laburnum Caravan Park said the park's touring plots and hire vans were booked out all summer and could have been booked out "two or three times over."
"Our telephones have been red hot, and things aren't so bad. We could have filled our hire vans two or three times over so I can't imagine there's going to be places free anymore.
"I think most people are going to be fully booked. It feels good, it was a very uncertain time for lots of businesses and at last, we can see light at the end of the tunnel now people are more confident and they are more willing to venture out," he said.
What happened last summer?
Summer 2020 saw a boom in visitors to the North Norfolk coast as coronavirus restrictions meant many were not able to travel abroad, but it was not all sunshine and smiles.
While the influx of visitors provided some much-needed trade for businesses, large numbers of tourists also created a 'catch-22' situation for seaside towns as they balanced protecting vulnerable residents with supporting the local economy.
Towns such as Sheringham and Cromer faced tough decisions over reopening facilities such as public toilets and car parks, by opening them they feared encouraging people to visit the coast but reports of people parking where they should not and going to the toilet in people's gardens led to facilities to reopen.
There were also concerns about whether lifeguards should be deployed and what this would mean for the area's many Blue Flag beaches.
The tourism sector enjoyed a late boom with campsites and attractions reporting one of their busiest summers on record with many saying they were forced to turn customers away.