Back in June 2020, as the the UK’s first Covid-19 lockdown started to ease, a bout of beautiful weather culminating in the hottest day of the year saw people flocking to the country’s beaches.
Within hours, the southern coastal town of Bournemouth had declared a “major incident” as it was swamped by traffic, trash, and unmanageable numbers of people.
Despite issuing pleas for visitors to stay away, local officials reportedly issued hundreds of parking fines and collected 33 tons of waste, citing “irresponsible behavior and actions of so many.”
“It was extreme what we saw out there,” Bournemouth resident Peter Ryan, who runs a 700-strong team of volunteers who keep the area’s shores clean, tells CNN Travel. “It wasn’t just the beach which was trashed, it was the streets, the town center, the gardens, it really did leave it in a dreadful state.”
With warmer weather approaching, and an increasingly vaccinated populous just a few weeks away from being unleashed from the UK’s third national lockdown, there are concerns that such scenes may again be seen.
If all goes well, the end of March will see outdoor gatherings in groups of six or less permitted in England. Then, on April 12, the hope is to reopen restaurants, bars, museums, and theme parks. Private vacation rentals will be allowed to welcome back tourists traveling with their own household.
By May 17, hotels, hostels and B&Bs should be able to follow suit.
With international travel likely to remain off the table until later in 2021, for most Brits any vacation this year will involve traveling within the UK.
For the country’s tourist hotspots, that will bring relief at the prospect of business returning after months of closure, but also trepidation about how sudden influxes of visitors will be managed.
Ryan is worried the chaos of last June could repeat itself in Bournemouth, although the local council is laying on more facilities and parking monitors to try and mitigate that risk.
“Staycations are very, very popular this summer, we can’t all fly away,” he says. “So, for this period of time, we’ve got to learn to appreciate what we have actually got on our doorstep.”
That’s a brilliant thing, we should take advantage of it, enjoy it, embrace it. But at the same time, respect the environment and respect other communities.”
“We’re expecting an absolute deluge”
The UK has always been a popular destination for international tourists and domestic travelers alike.
There are bustling cities like London, Manchester, Liverpool and Edinburgh, plus miles of coastline, from the White Cliffs of Dover in the southeast of England to the sandy shores of Scotland’s islands. The UK is also home to several national parks including the picturesque peaks of the Lake District and the mountainous Cairngorms in Scotland.
These destinations usually compete with European hotspots such as Spain and Portugal for UK travelers, but in 2020 as the country’s own restrictions placed most overseas trips off-limits, staycation interest rose.
That’s likely to intensify in summer 2021, despite government ministers suggesting that even Britain-based summer escapes could be off limits – a gloomy outlook now being swept aside by vaccine-triggered optimism.