Curtsies and dinner through a hatch: Hotels in Cornwall prepare for re-opening

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Hotels in Cornwall have come up with innovative ways to keep customers and staff safe when they reopen next month, from serving breakfasts to guests in beach huts to swapping handshakes for bows and curtsies.

Businesses in the county have been “very busy” with phone and online bookings since the announcement that people will be able to stay in self-contained accommodation from July 4.

The St Moritz Hotel & Spa near Rock has been building a purpose-built socially distanced restaurant – believed to be the first of its kind – that will see guests seated in private dining rooms.

Breakfasts for guests will be laid out in advance and some will be served in individual striped beach huts overlooking the sea.

From July 4, the Eden Project will open its biomes and indoor cafes with a one-way system in place to keep guests safe.

Hugh Ridgway, owner of the St Moritz hotel, said the restaurant would have only been able to operate at 30% occupancy with the two-metre rule in place so decided to build the socially distanced pop-up venue.

This consists of 16 private dining rooms, each with a serving hatch where guests will be served their food from – meaning staff do not need to enter.

Mr Ridgway said phone and online inquiries had been “very busy” since news of the relaxation of lockdown restrictions was announced on Monday.

“Our self-catering accommodations are full for July and August, which we would expect,” he said.

“People have been waiting and waiting to stay in hotels and now our phones are very busy, our online bookings are very busy.

“We are very lucky here in St Mortiz that our architecture means all of our hotel rooms can be occupied in a safe and socially distanced manner.

“The only problem is that we need to feed our guests. We can’t do that if we are restricting our restaurant to 30% or 60% – if at one-metre distance – occupancy.

“That’s why we came up with the idea of socially distanced dining and built this marquee with 16 individual dining rooms.”

The hotel was planning to open its two swimming pools and spa facilities on July 4 but these will remain closed for now.

Mr Ridgway said it was hoping that they would be able to reopen at the end of Government’s next review period.

“Looking after people is our bread and butter – we know how to look after people safely,” he added.

Parts of the industry that are traditionally seasonal could continue to trade over the winter to help businesses stay afloat following the financial toll of lockdown.

People that may have travelled abroad over the colder months may also choose a staycation rather than going abroad, Mr Ridgway said.

“We think there will be the pent-up demand still going into the winter,” he added.

Cornwall Council has estimated the loss to the tourism sector in the county to be £630 million to the end of June.

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