Published: 06:00, 07 January 2021
Many people thought seeing the back of 2020 would be the start of better and brighter times.
But, as of Tuesday, Kent and the rest of the UK once again found themselves confined to their own homes as the country was plunged into its third lockdown – all while event planners and travel experts were gearing up to what was hoped to be a grand return to normality in 2021.
The roll out of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines have proved to be a small glimmer of hope that one day soon we'll be able to once again go to a festival, travel abroad, or even hug a distant relative.
Chief executive of Visit Kent, Deirdre Wells OBE, has welcomed the support for the tourism and event industry pledged by chancellor Rishi Sunak, but described the new year lockdown as 'extremely concerning.'
She said: "The current situation is extremely concerning, and our industry will need considerable support over the coming period if it is to survive.
"We welcome the announcement by the chancellor of further support but this will need to be kept under review to ensure that it provides the support needed to keep businesses from going under.
"With the roll-out of the vaccine this week, we can look forward to better times ahead.
"We hope that the government's ambition to get the most vulnerable vaccinated by mid-February will mean that our industry can start to plan for a much anticipated and much needed reopening at Easter."
Almost a year on, a tourism expert has looked back on what has been a difficult year, and what he hopes for 2021.
Director of Travel Vogue, Andrew Baker, described the past 10-11 months for his company as simply 'awful,' but remains optimistic for this year's summer holidays.
The independent travel operator, based in Meopham, has served the local area for over 20 years, but has never seen a challenge as severe as the pandemic.
Andrew said: "We are no different from the many business and individuals in the leisure sector, or for that matter, just about any other business.
"The travel industry is looking forward to 2021 as the virus is knocked back by the vaccine and there is a return to some sense of normality as restrictions are eased and passenger confidence is restored.
"Initially the challenges faced were enormous – advice was changing by the minute but it became clear that borders were closing which focused our priority to making contact with our passengers overseas to assist with efforts to bring them home as soon as possible before the entire travel network was shutdown."
Travel Vogue is run and operated by a small team of just four people.
Andrew added: "The struggle was numbers – we don't usually speak with all of our customers at the same time but that is essentially what happened – everyone had questions that needed answers.
"We also found ourselves fielding questions from passengers who had made their own bookings online that were now unable to make contact with airlines or hotels.
"The darkest days are behind us now, the future always remains bright in the travel industry – travel agents are born optimists.
"When speaking with our customers, I'm constantly being told that they are desperate to get away, to relax on the beach with a cool drink.
"The darkest days are behind us now, the future always remains bright in the travel industry – travel agents are born optimists..."
"Holidays in 2021 will be possible, there will be a return to the beaches. The operators, airlines, hoteliers and cruise ships are ready, and so are we. We just need customers."
Whilst some of you will be left just dreaming of sipping fruity cocktails on a white-sand beach in 30 degree heat, the lockdown could also affect events a bit closer to home.
The word 'cancelled' became a bit repetitive last year, so management teams behind Kent's 2021 events are remaining optimistic for the near future.
It was an 'extremely difficult' decision when the Kent County Agricultural Society decided to cancel one of last year's biggest summer events - the Kent County Show.
The event at the Kent Showground at Detling, near Maidstone, showcases the best the county has to offer in terms of produce, livestock, food and drink and rural pursuits.
This year's show is set to take place from Friday, July 9, to Sunday, July 11.
However, due to pressures posed by the virus, organisers have been unable to release tickets as early as they wanted to.
Deputy general manager, Lucy Hegarty, said: "Whilst the pandemic has made organising events difficult, the latest lockdown hasn't stopped us completely.
"We are hopeful that by July we'll be able to hold the Kent County Show.
"For now, it just means we have to think about new ways to deliver what people love about the show in a way that keeps our visitors safe.
"As the situation and rules change regularly, we're remaining flexible in our planning.
"We may not be able to have tickets available as early as normal but we're confident we can find a way to bring back the spirit of the Kent County Show in 2021 in a safe and responsible way."
Live music was another aspect of 2021 that seemed to fall off the face of the earth.
Dreamland, in Margate, is just one of the many festival sites which is hoping to open up its stages to music-lovers by the summer.
The theme-park plans to welcome back drum and bass duo Chase and Status on April 30, alongside the Hi-Tide festival on July 3-4.
A spokesperson said: "No decision has been made to postpone the Chase and Status event or the Hi-Tide festival at Dreamland.
"Any future decision to postpone the event would be made in close consultation with the promoter and the local council, and be in line with government regulations at the time."
However, Chase and Status, Fat Boy Slim and Suggs aren't the only headline acts set to take to the stage in Kent later this year.
The cricket ground is also due to host fellow Canadian super-star Michael Bublé on July 10 as part of his outdoor summer tour.
A spokesperson for music promoters, AEG Events, said: "The safety of customers is our number one priority.
"We are encouraged by the progress of the vaccination roll out and will continue to monitor the situation very closely over the coming weeks."
Medway's Rapture and Gaming Festival was set to take place in March but was moved to May by the local authority just before Christmas, due to the pandemic.
It will currently go ahead as planned at The Historic Chatham Dockside on May 8-9.
Medway council says the weekend event will have something for everyone – from gaming pros to novices.
As well as the contests themselves, they'll be interactive exhibitions for people of all ages.
The festival has a real-life submarine taking centre stage for a murder mystery activity, with more details to be revealed later.
A spokesman for the council said: "The health, safety and wellbeing of residents and visitors is our top priority.
"Although we hope this exciting and unique event will be held in May, organisers can be flexible if it has to be moved again, in line with future government guidelines."
Organisers of the Faversham Hop Festival are yet to make a decision as to whether the event will take place this year, due to uncertainty surrounding donations from local businesses.
One of the largest free street festivals in the south east, it centres on the county's hop-growing heritage, and celebrates the humble hop and what it has given us - beer.
It is expected to take place on Saturday, September 4, and Sunday, September 5.
A spokesperson said: "Given the current lockdown situation and the long term uncertainties, Faversham Hop Festival's management team will be following all government guidelines when considering if this year's event should take place.
"As a free event it is wholly reliant upon sponsorship and donations for funding, mostly from local businesses which are obviously suffering great hardship in the current pandemic.
"Time to plan an event of this size is crucial and this will be just one of many deciding factors when considering 2021's event so the team will be making a decision soon."
Going outside to see friends and family began to feel normal again for a brief moment over the summer months as pubs, restaurants and other venues re-opened.
But once again the county finds itself it what seems like a never-ending loop of isolation.
Although Kent is only a couple of days into lockdown, which may have seemed like an age already, it may be the ticket to an effective roll-out of the vaccine, continued protection of the NHS, and the first step to getting life back to 'normal.'
To see a full list of this year's events, click here.