Great Yarmouth racecourse boss looks back on unpredictable season
- Credit: James Weeds
The manager of Great Yarmouth Racecourse has said that 2021 was a season of two halves due to Covid.
Glenn Tubby, executive director of the course, said the start of this year's season, which ran from April to October, was "unpredictable".
"It was hard to plan at the beginning," Mr Tubby said.
"It really was the unknown and it was difficult to plan ahead with any confidence."
However, Mr Tubby, 54, said that once the last lockdown was over, bookings picked up immediately.
Mr Tubby said: "I just knew when the government said the restrictions were lifted, there would be a boost in the town.
"Where we had the restrictions, lower numbers and a loss of a couple of days at the start of the season, the second half of the season was bumper.
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"Crowds were up - more so than what we planned - and they were even higher than they were in 2019.
"The restaurant was sold out every day from August 4 until the end of season."
Mr Tubby noted a "bounce back effect" in the town once people were able to go out more.
"A lot of people wanted to go to the races after having been locked up for so long," he said.
"From August onwards, we had a fantastic year.
"It made up for it really."
Mr Tubby believes that uncertainty over international travel helped both the racecourse and the wider area.
"I think the town of Yarmouth was busier than normal because of staycations," Mr Tubby said.
"My crowd was five or 10pc bigger than it was in 2019.
"All the tourist attractions feed off the increase in visitors, but equally, if the town has a bad year, we all suffer a bit as well."
Mr Tubby believes next year will still be a good season, but it may be impacted by the return of international travel.
He added: "It's early to say, but my confidence is high for next year.
"We're all worried about the winter infection rates, but hospitalisations and death rates seem to be lower than this time last year.
"If the government manages to keep it at that level, we should have another full season like the back end of this year.
"I think there will be a bit of a decline of visitors in the town next year compared to this year though.
"Some people probably haven't been abroad for two maybe three years, and I think that will catch up with the staycation market in 2022.
"Assuming holidays abroad and flights are back to normal, I think there will be a boom for those kind of breaks which will have a slight negative on staycations and UK tourism.
"I think we'll have to wait and see though. What happens with Covid over Christmas will be interesting."
There will be no Christmas events at the racecourse this year, as Mr Tubby said "we decided to not take that risk".
However, private bookings are being considered.
"It was a very challenging year, but it ended well," added Mr Tubby.
"In the early part of the season we couldn't promise what September would have looked like.
"We were advising people to wait to make their bookings and everybody needed that reassurance."
After the total lifting of restrictions in July, Great Yarmouth Racecourse still encouraged people to remain socially distanced and to wear masks.
Mr Tubby said: "I think the behaviour of the customers has been excellent.
"People were so keen to come back, and we had no issues.
"As the public had seen a year of the restrictions, everyone knew what to do.
"Spend levels were higher as well.
"As people hadn't splashed out in a long time, there were bigger budgets than previous years.
"Also, people were so pleased to be back there was an extra buzz this year.
"It was definitely quite a lift after a fairly bleak year."