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Inside track: Wendy Bartlett's tale of two lockdowns

25 August 2020 by

A staycation and a trip to Spain offer two very different interpretations of the rules around hospitality and coronavirus, says Wendy Bartlett.

I've just spent a week in Scotland, and the experience has allowed me to see what the staycation experience is like first hand, and how the message about the UK being ‘open for business' is being received.

From what I've seen, there is still much confusion around the rules and trepidation in not knowing what is open or closed. The interpretation of some rules was interesting – like not being able to get help with luggage and some places not offering soaps.

In all honesty, most places are only slightly open for business, and some are definitely not. In fact, it's very sad to see the impact on the high street and business in general.

This amazement at the inconsistency wasn't just my own experience, but a number of us felt the same thing when travelling up to Scotland from the south. Deciding where to stop for a loo break or a food and fuel stop is perilous, and there is no definitive answer as to why businesses may be on shortened hours or reduced offers or services, when clearly there is a demand.

I appreciate that some businesses will have faced challenges when reopening, and some may have sadly had to close permanently, but some have just half-opened. And don't get me started on why the loos are not open – we are six months in, surely, we have worked out a way of doing this safely!

‘Track and trace' is confusing at best, with various levels of implementation and no clarity on the horizon. It's almost become part of the game and experience to see how establishments react and allow for all the new risks. It's certainly the first topic of conversation when you talk to friends.

This staycation was quite a different experience to my stay in Spain a few weeks before. There it is very clear – you wear a mask unless you are exercising, or at home, or sitting at a table. Sanitiser is available at every doorway, and it is used, and the rules are very clear and reiterated often. There are even speakers installed on the beach to blare out the message to make sure everyone knows.

Business owners and individuals are given huge fines if they don't comply. Even on the beach there were monitors checking to see if everybody was wearing masks if walking about.

I don't have a preference for strict rules, but at least I was clear on what they were and pretty much everyone complied. In the UK, I think most have given up trying to understand.

We are fortunate to have stunningly beautiful places in the UK. Scotland (despite the midges) is simply gorgeous, and when the sun is shining, the beaches in the outer Hebrides can easily compete with the Caribbean for their white sands. However, I do feel that the success of our tourism relies on more clarity. In some ways, we have become paralysed by our confusion.

I would much prefer to see innovation and entrepreneurialism creating new ways to do things, including a new sense of positive customer experience, rather than just bemoaning and putting sticky tape over the old ways, creating a lesser experience.

Despite the challenges, I really want people to feel a bit more excited about what the future can hold. Yes, it's not the same, but this offers opportunity to try different things. We can't just do the same things, but in a restricted way. We need to create new modes of operation – new behaviours and new experiences.

The success of our tourism relies on more clarity. In some ways, we have become paralysed by our confusion

This new life is here to stay and we really have to get a grip and just get on with it.

Photo: Shutterstock

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