Coronavirus: continued – and how to help small businesses like us

I’ll be honest with you…

All smiles at the West Midlands Tourism Awards – as if this was just a few weeks ago!

Tom and I have shed a lot of tears and lost a lot of sleep over the past few days.

Not only are we receiving next to no bookings for the foreseeable future, much of the income we have received over the last year has suddenly left our bank account again in a matter of days because of the volume of refunds we are having to process. Meanwhile, there are still bills to pay, vehicles to maintain, and a little girl to care for who is blissfully unaware about what is going on.

The latest advice

Since I last wrote on Friday 13th March, advice from the UK Government has changed again. In a press briefing yesterday (17th March), UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that now, anyone experiencing possible symptoms of coronavirus infection (a new, persistent cough and/or a fever) should self-isolate for 14 days, not just 7, and their entire household – not just the affected person – should also remain isolated.

The Emergency Services will no longer support “mass gatherings”, forcing sports and live entertainment events to operate behind closed doors, or to cancel altogether. People are advised not to go to pubs, clubs, theatres, or other environments where there is close social contact. 

Then today (18th March), it was revealed that schools and childcare settings will be closed from Friday (2oth March) until further notice. 

So what now? 

Here at Go Cotswolds, for now, we’re sticking to our aforementioned policy to Keep Calm and Carry On, so long as we have customers willing to take our tours, and so long as our team members are healthy and happy to continue working.

We are not alone. Many shops, cafés, restaurants and other small businesses are continuing to open their doors, albeit smelling more strongly of disinfectant than they did before! Some have criticised this approach, and I understand why, but some businesses simply don’t feel that they can afford not to open. Being one ourselves, we are acutely aware of the devastating impact that this situation is having on small business, so we want to continue to support the local economy here in the Cotswolds – while we still can. 

What next? 

Although it hasn’t happened yet, “total lockdown” of the UK seems inevitable at some point, and in all honesty it will probably happen very soon. At that point, we will need to close temporarily. If and when this happens, we will, of course, notify affected customers as soon as possible.

In the first instance, we are offering all customers the opportunity to exchange their booking for a gift voucher, valid for 2 years, which can be redeemed against a future tour. This option might not work for everyone, but if you expect to reschedule your tour in the future – and we hope you do! – we hope you will consider it as it will greatly help our cash flow problem! 

If you prefer, we will, of course, provide you with a refund in line with our terms and conditions; however, we are now asking our customers to have patience with us while we process these refunds. With childcare settings due to close on Friday, Tom and I will need to juggle our work around looking after our 2.5 year old daughter, who is usually in daycare 4 days a week. In addition, the volume of refunds we have had to process over the last few weeks has been so great that our cash reserves are now running very low. We need some time to figure things out – but we will get there. 

Support small businesses – buy gift vouchers 

In the meantime, one way that you can support small businesses like ours is to buy gift vouchers now, to use later. Gift vouchers for our Cotswolds Day Tours and our Brewery & Pub Tours are available to purchase on our website.

This isn’t just about us. If you can, we encourage you to support all of your local businesses, whether they are travel-related or not – especially the small, independent ones. The giant chain stores turning multi-million profits can probably survive this, but your indie retailers and service providers may not – and the longer this goes on, the less likely survival becomes. 

Despite everything, the phrase “we will not let this break us” has been going round and round in my head. We remain optimistic that we will come back from this. The tourists will return, and we will be here, ready and waiting to show you around our beautiful Cotswolds when all this blows over!

Until then, stay well. 

Lisa & Tom xx

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