GNF Members Update 13 May - Issue 32

Dear All,
Some New Forest Car Parks open today for the first time in seven weeks, but we have decided against actively promoting this change and ask members to do likewise. Whilst we have updated all relevant pages on the website, in the circumstances we believe it is important to minimise any potential local tensions at this critical time.

Moving Our Tourism Recovery Plan Forward
As already mentioned, it will be very important to get our more nervous residents on side to provide a warm welcome to visitors as we hopefully start to re-open for business in early July. In many ways, today’s lifting of travel restrictions for exercise only, has given us a helpful rehearsal. If we play our cards right over the next month or so, this initial influx of people visiting the forest will help our residents slowly come to terms with the changing situation and at the same time become more aware and supportive of the needs of our local tourism industry.

We’re all too aware of the need to win over the hearts and minds of those residents that are worried by any re-opening of businesses. But it’s worth remembering many have already recognised the current plight of tourism businesses by supporting GNF member business’ crowdfunding campaigns, take-aways, deliveries and online sales which we have promoted in our weekly Local Services newsletter and on the new website pages. We’re hopeful the Lymington Times will run a story on our plan and you can find GNF’s statement below.

So, whilst we need to be cautious we also need to approach the next six weeks with the appropriate vigour and confidence to successfully deliver our recovery plan. Of course, if things go wrong, then that’s a different story, but in the meantime, we’re pressing on. The main starting point will be the launching of our plan with the support of our two MPs, the Leader of NFDC, Forestry England and the NPA during English Tourism Week 25-31 May.

The GNF Board have ratified the direction of “travel” of the plan and we’ll continue to develop and adjust it as we go forward. Next week we will prepare to start working directly with members to deliver actions up to and past re-opening and well into the Autumn. To help members fully play their part we’ll shortly circulate a “How to” handbook which will also include (once published) the Government’s criteria for a business being “Covid Secure” and therefore able to re-open.

Destination Website Growing Again
After an almost complete decimation of traffic since 23rd March, it’s very pleasing to see that website sessions are now growing rapidly. For the period from lockdown, traffic was just 27% on average in comparison with the same period last year. Over the last week that rose to 42%, on Monday it was up to 60% and yesterday it had risen to 72% and today it might go even higher.

This great news, and whilst the bulk of this growth is local and concentrates on car park information, walking and cycling, in the last few days, a number of members have also been receiving bookings via the website for July, August and September. Clearly consumers are waking up so we all need to respond to this re-engagement quickly by developing the communication stages of our plan.

Let Us Know Your Ideas
In early June or possibly before, it is likely we will provide a number of online member’s workshops to help them prepare and deliver their part of the plan, especially sections 6. SUMMER and 7. AUTUMN. As always we are very interested in ideas and suggestions on what will help the different types of business in membership of GNF, so please let us know your thoughts. You can find a copy of the current version of the Recovery Plan below

Upcoming GNF Virtual Sector Group Meetings
The following Sector Group Zoom meetings have been scheduled - invitations will be sent to each group with agenda and joining instructions:
Self-Catering -  Thursday 14 May at 11.00am
Holiday Parks & Camp Sites -  Tuesday 19 May at 11.00am
Hotels Pubs Inns & Restaurants -  Wednesday 20 May at 11.00am
Food & Drink -  Date and time to be agreed

Very best wishes,