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Broadhembury holiday park in Kingsnorth welcoming campers from April 12 as lockdown restrictions ease


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With the pandemic putting a freeze on many abroad holiday destinations in 2021, people are already looking closer to home for their summer getaways.

And as restrictions ease some are booking trips from as early as next week, following the next phase in the government's roadmap out of lockdown.

Camping could be incredibly popular again this summer as international travel remains off the cards
Camping could be incredibly popular again this summer as international travel remains off the cards

Whilst many campsites are opting to remain closed until May 17, others are taking advantage of the relaxed restrictions to welcome customers once again.

Broadhembury Holiday Park, in Kingsnorth, near Ashford, is welcoming 10 groups of people onto their site from next week.

And both the May half term week and the first week of the summer holiday in July are already completely full.

Owner Sally Stone said she has had to create a rota for next week's campers to use the shower facilities, so each cubicle can be thoroughly cleaned in between uses.

She said: "A lot of parks like the Motorhome Club decided they're all just staying shut until May 17, and I get that because it is a big headache, and if you've got a managed park it might be tricky for staff to get their heads around it.

Sally, pictured second to right, and her family
Sally, pictured second to right, and her family

"For me I was just desperate to welcome the campers back, we had a lot of bookings I didn't want to turn down."

Last summer was one of the busiest ever periods in the history of the holiday park.

When lockdown restrictions ended on July 4, campsites across Kent were hit with a slew of last-minute bookings for the school holidays.

Sally said: "Last year was unprecedented. For me, as a park owner, what really struck me was how much we were saying 'no' to people - 'no' we couldn't take them' and 'no we're full'."

Specialist store WM Camping, in Herne Bay, had an 80% increase in camping and tent sales last summer.

The first week of the summer holiday is already booked up
The first week of the summer holiday is already booked up

Other campsites, such as Welsummer Camping in Harrietsham, near Maidstone, reported an increase in first-time campers who decided to pitch up when it became clear holidays abroad were not on the cards.

But Sally said this summer is more difficult to predict.

In light of the relaxing restrictions, she expected to already see a lot more customers than usual booking slots over the summer holidays.

But the park owner believes the slow uptake could be a result of the shifting restrictions that have defined the past six months of life in the UK.

She said: "I do think people are becoming increasingly nervous about booking, and to be honest with you I'm not surprised after everything that has happened last year.

Sally said she can't wait to welcome customers back to the park
Sally said she can't wait to welcome customers back to the park

"When everything opened on July 4, 2020, I think there was a feeling of 'this is it, we're never going back into lockdown and it's all over'."

Following the last-minute cancellation of Christmas and the long third lockdown, Sally believes people might not be ready to commit to handing their hard-earned cash over to something which could end up cancelled if the roadmap out of lockdown shifts.

But if - as she predicts - thousands of holiday-makers wait until all restrictions are fully lifted to plan their getaway, there could be an explosion of booking chaos right at the last minute.

She said: "I think it is going to be a case of the early bird catches the worm - those that have the confidence to book now are much more likely to get their holidays.

"For a large percentage of people it's just going to be too late, because some will have had confidence in the industry to book."

Will there be an explosion of last-minute bookings in July?
Will there be an explosion of last-minute bookings in July?

Like many hospitality businesses, Broadhembury Holiday Park is offering reassurances to boost people's confidence in booking regardless of the current phase of the lockdown roadmap.

Sally said: "We've said all along our Covid promise to people is if you can't come due to a government restriction, you can either move dates, have a credit note or your money back.

"I haven't heard any horror stories of people not getting their money back due to Covid, though I'm sure there has been.

"But we're wanting to preserve out customers for the future, because whatever happens at some stage we will come out of this.

"So to not give money back is so short sighted - it's just what you need to do."

Read more: All the latest news from Ashford

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