Planning the great escape….

Claire Christian

Claire Christian is a successful businesswoman on the Isle of Man, contributing to the retail offering of high-end affordable fashion, and bespoke womenswear. A long-term veteran of the retail, wholesale, manufacturing and luxury end of the fashion industry such as Burberry, Hardy Amies and Melissa Odabash, Claire returned to the Island seven years ago to establish her brand and independent business. During the Covid 19 Pandemic she has been a crucial conduit for the self-employed, businesses and local government, and has been instrumental shaping the government’s support policies.  

Planning the great escape…. 

Well it might not actually be far, as the island’s hospitality industry prepares for a local demand this summer.

There is no doubt about it, Covid 19 has changed the way we are going to travel for this year and perhaps years to come.

The Isle of Man’s hospitality industry has struggled since the dizzy heights of the 1960’s and 70’s; who remembers our bustling towns full of tourists from far and wide? Over the years, the Isle of Man’s saving grace has being the TT, Classic and the Manx Grand Prix.  This amazing tourist attraction makes our island’s economy more fragile than most; not just in the hospitality industry, but it reaches further – businesses & individuals, restaurants, shops, travel providers, petrol stations, physiotherapists, bakers, distillers, event planners, event lighting and sound services, casual workers, local bands, artists, cleaners, mechanics, students and many, many more.  And while this years TT has been cancelled, so too have many bookings in local hotels, B and B’s, cottages, apartments, campsites, and homestays.  The government has made significant investment over the years, and the industry, like many others, was starting to see a renaissance period, numbers were up, and things were looking positive. But it is the foreign consumer that books 95% of accommodation on the Isle of Man. So how can these businesses survive the fall-out from Covid 19?

Could there be hope on the horizon in the shape of local support, where islanders are bound to the Island as the borders remain shut?  Even when the borders re-open, consumer confidence in travel is likely to be at an all time low, with the threat of a second spike as everyone’s worst nightmare, and with many countries still classified as “not safe”. Furthermore, we still don’t know if we will be forced to quarantine in locations we arrive in, or have to quarantine when we return, making timings and logistics complex.

So this year, why not help our hospitality industry, and find that glorious staycation on our beautiful Island?  

Perhaps there could even be a staycation stampede? With the diminishing hope of overseas travel, rescuing the summer with a surge in demand for domestic breaks could be key and the respite we all need.  The Island has so much to offer; ‘locals’ could lose themselves in towns they perhaps have once dreamed of living in. If the good weather prevails, the locals will flock to the beaches for water sports, and our promenades could be lively with families and friends who have learned not to take time with each other for granted. 

Families could easily have holidays together at a fraction of the cost, without the added expense of multiple airline tickets off island, and again to their chosen destination. A seven day break would actually be seven days… no wasting precious time in airports or overnight stays to catch the early morning flights, or missed connections. 

What we do now in terms of social distancing and a sensible approach to gatherings is critical. With the current trend of zero new cases in the last five days, July could open up a new era of local freedom for us all. 

But, as a family, in the same household, right now you could transport yourself away, support your local economy, and choose to stay in one of our beautiful towns or villages. Not only will you help the hospitality industry, but you will help our micro economies too, as these places will need cleaners, chefs, waitresses, waiters, etc. Perhaps they will offer a massage or treatments to add to that experience? You will visit villages, and perhaps spend a little bit in the local stores, or experience local culture and art (when these things become more accessible). You could learn new skills, sports, perhaps take some horse riding lessons, try your hand at paddle boarding in Port Erin Bay?  Spend a week playing golf… relax, and shut yourself off from those four walls you have been forced to look at these past three months.  

The July and August long-range weather forecasts are not just looking great, they are looking sensational!  And soon, maybe we can plan that trip with our loved ones, and make the most of our time closer to home, as we are lucky enough to live in a safe place with the protection of water all around us.  

Check out a new website just launched – staycation.im, you can rent everything from a camper van to a gorgeous seaside cottage. Hotels are setting new standards too, rolling out more staycation packages, each one trying to offer that escape from home life, which may actually only be a few miles away. Why not, I think we all deserve it…

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