One year on - Warwick Castle on the impact of Covid-19 and the outlook for 2021
The castle is getting ready to reopen to visitors and overnight guests
As we approach a full year since the first UK lockdown (March 23), Warwick Castle looks ahead to 2021 after 12 months of changing restrictions, adapting work practices, and the challenges of running an attraction during a pandemic. Here are the views of Nick Blofeld, divisional director at Warwick Castle.
With pent-up demand for family days out and getaways, we expect it to be a bumper year for the castle, particularly with the launch of our brand-new interactive Zog trail for pre-school children as we reopen on the April 12.
There's a clear correlation between the government's confirmations of key dates and customers having the confidence to actually go ahead and book.
Since the roadmap was announced on February 22, we've certainly seen uplift, albeit not at the levels we'd hoped for.
We know it's not just us, the same goes for other domestic travel providers in the UK.
Bookings for the weeks immediately beyond reopening are picking up but from what we can see, there’s a significant level of caution, especially for staycations with overnight stays.
We believe this is in part due to confusion around the detail of government guidelines for ‘self-contained accommodation’.
Many seem to understand this as relating only to cottages and holiday rentals.
But it actually encompasses a far broader range, including lodges, glamping sites, caravans and other holiday accommodation that feature their own self-contained sleeping spaces, bathroom, catering facilities and access points.
Like other self-contained holiday options, we will be reopening our lodges from April 12, under government guidelines and have availability to host those looking for that much-need post lockdown escape at the Knight’s Village.
We also believe that the widespread reporting that the UK is ‘fully booked’ isn't helpful to the industry as a whole as it’s simply not the case.
While some individual hotels or properties in key hotspots may be sold out for the summer, elsewhere there are plenty of providers with availability.
While it is hard to predict the impact of the government’s announcement on the April 12 on international travel, we do expect to see a significant boost in bookings for the UK domestic travel industry after that date.
From the planned start of Step 2 reopenings on May 17, we’re already seeing signs of increased confidence via increased bookings. Peak dates for later in the year are actually now trading well ahead of previous years which is obviously hugely encouraging.
The industry also faces the challenges of maximising guest experience, while adapting to the various guidelines, which Warwick Castle has worked hard to do.
While restrictions may mean venues cannot open certain activities or facilities until a later date, it is important that as an industry we continue to be creative and leverage other elements to enhance stays and visits.
For example, here at Warwick, until the Knight’s Village Banquet Hall can reopen fully, it will provide overnight guests with takeaway meals to enjoy at their Lodge.
We have also brought in a new limited edition experience for those booking before March 31 and staying before May 17, which will see them have an exclusive meet and greet experience with some of our fantastic birds of prey.