TRADERS in the tourism industry say they are looking forward to opening their doors on Saturday (March 27), but are critical of a lack of notice from the Welsh Government.

They have also encouraged holidaymakers to not "rush to beaches".

Ministers in Wales discussed on Thursday whether travel restrictions can be eased to allow limited tourism in Wales over Easter, but – like has been the case for traders across Wales throughout the pandemic – confirmation was delayed until the day of the public announcement on Friday (March 26).

The Welsh Government has now confirmed that the stay-local rule will be lifted from Saturday, meaning the tourism sector can begin a phased reopening.

People in England, though, cannot go on holiday elsewhere in the UK until April 12, meaning it is unlikely Wales’ tourism industry will see a huge boost this Easter period.

South Wales Argus: Mark Drakeford warned a decision would not be made until 'the last moment'Mark Drakeford warned a decision would not be made until 'the last moment'

Self-contained holiday accommodation, including hotels with en-suites and room service, will be able to reopen to people from the same household or support bubble.

The stay local rule will be replaced by an interim all-Wales travel area, which will remain in place until April 12, subject to the public health situation.

On the stay local rule, Mark Drakeford warned a decision would not be made until “the last moment”, and those in the tourism industry have said while they understand the need to be cautious, the government’s approach has led to a “very tense wait”.

Fiona Wilton, part owner of Monmouthshire Cottages in Chepstow with husband Malcolm, says she lost most bookings for Easter due to border issues, with a high percentage of her customers coming from England.

South Wales Argus: Malcolm (centre left) and Fiona Wilton (right) being presented with an award by Lord Elis-Thomas Deputy Minister for Tourism in WalesMalcolm (centre left) and Fiona Wilton (right) being presented with an award by Lord Elis-Thomas Deputy Minister for Tourism in Wales

“We had 15 bookings for Easter and all of those were from England,” she explained, speaking on Thursday ahead of the announcement. “They all had to cancel and we’ve managed to get five bookings for Easter.

“It’s difficult under the restrictions because we’re expecting the announcement to be that you can only take bookings from single households. It’s put a lot of people off.

“It seems a little mad that we’re allowed to welcome people from Covid hotspots in Wales, but we can’t have a family from just across the border in Gloucestershire where cases are very low.

“I’d really like to encourage families to book and come and support independent businesses if you can. Try new places this Easter, rather than rushing to packed beaches. We don’t want to see repeats of those crammed beaches we saw last summer.”

At Christmas Mrs Wilton says she was left in tears when she was told to close within hours on December 19. She rushed to tell those travelling to her getaway for Christmas to turn back, and she says prior to the announcement she was “dreading a repeat situation”.

“It really was devastating,” she added. “So many had come to see their relatives in Monmouthshire. There were a lot of tears. We understand the need to make hard decisions, but it’s the lack of notice that is hard to take.

“It will be a very tense wait before Saturday, and I just hope there are no surprises.”

Ben Brand, owner of 160 rentable units – including the Silurian Hotel (former Newport Central Hotel) on High Street, has been working hard to prepare for opening this weekend.

South Wales Argus: Ben and Chris at the SilurianBen and Chris at the Silurian

As all the units are en-suite rooms with self-catering services, he is expecting to open to visitors on Saturday.

“We can’t expect it will be fantastic, because people aren’t travelling from England,” he said.

“We have a lot of bookings from April 12 onwards and we’re almost full up for July and August.

“We feel we have plenty to be optimistic about. If people can’t go abroad we’re looking at a summer of staycations, and that’s good news for us.

“It’s a positive first step, but there is plenty more that needs to happen before we’re looking at anything like normal again.”