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Huge demand for attractions and accommodation reopening on Monday

Neil Lancefield, PA Transport Correspondent
·3 min read

Outdoor attractions and self-catering accommodation providers are preparing for a rush of visitors when they reopen on Monday.

Chester Zoo chief executive Jamie Christon said it has enjoyed a “great deal of demand”, with the majority of tickets sold out for the coming days.

“As we move out of lockdown, people are wanting to meet with friends and family,” he told the PA news agency.

“Chester Zoo is a fantastic place to do that. They can have a great day out, understand and learn a bit about conservation, and we’re professional and large enough to be able to make sure that is done in a secure and safe way.

“I expect that we’re going to be busy. We want to open next Monday and stay open for the entire year.”

Mr Christon said it has been “pretty difficult” for the business during the pandemic, as it costs around £1.6 million every month to maintain the zoo, including looking after its 19,000 animals.

“Even though the gates have been closed to the public, life in the zoo still goes on”, he said.

“We can’t furlough the animals, and we’ve had no assistance from the Government at all.”

A bather optimistically hopes for sunshine in front of empty Brighton beach huts
Staycations are being organised further in advance (Toby Melville/PA)

Steve Jarvis, co-founder of website Independent Cottages, which promotes around 1,800 self-catering properties, said around 80% of its sites are booked over the next fortnight.

The “huge appetite for UK holidays” began at the start of the year, he explained.

The firm recorded more than double the number of bookings in January and February compared with the same period in 2020.

“To have that interest and confidence for people to book is terrific,” Mr Jarvis said.

He added that although properties in the popular tourist destinations of Cornwall and Devon are 95% booked up, other areas are “catching up quickly”.

A luxury tent
Luxury camping firm Feather Down said it is ‘nearly sold out’ for the next few weeks (Luke MacGregor/Feather Down/PA)

He said: “People are happy to think about what they want to do rather than where they want to do it.

“If you want to take your bikes away or the dog you got in lockdown, then there’s a lot of great countryside to go to.”

Mr Jarvis explained that the common practice of organising foreign holidays far in advance but leaving domestic breaks until the last-minute has “turned on its head”.

He said people are having to plan UK holidays much earlier than normal as “there aren’t enough cottages to go round”, whereas many people are being put off making firm commitment on foreign travel due to uncertainty over the rules for quarantine and testing.

Another holiday home firm, Cottages.com, said two-thirds of its properties in coastal destinations or with hot tubs are booked for the first week of reopening.

Feather Down, which offers luxury camping on farms across Britain, reported being “nearly sold out” for the next few weeks, with summer bookings more than double what they were at the same point in 2020.