CORNWALL’s tourism chief has slammed an ‘offensive and unforgivable’ sign strung across a main road bridge telling holidaymakers to ‘f*** off’ and go back home.
Malcolm Bell, chief executive of Visit Cornwall, said outsiders are welcome and the region, which relies heavily on tourism, desperately needs their money.
Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay angered locals when he and his family moved to their second home in Cornwall during the lockdown.
Residents say Cornwall has only one major hospital and a flood of holidaymakers puts their lives at risk.
The county has managed to keep the number of coronavirus cases low compared to the rest of the country to date – with 887 confirmed cases overall and 91 deaths, compared to 28,889 reported deaths for hospitals in England.
The crude 6ft long banner – with the words ‘Turn round and f** off’ written in black paint on a white board – was held aloft by three people while their faces were hidden by it.
They stood on the bridge over the A30 at Bodmin, one of the main roads into Cornwall for holidaymakers.
Hundreds of thousands of tourists have started arriving in Cornwall and neighbouring Devon following the relaxation of banning measures on Super Saturday.
But many residents have voiced their concerns on social media, saying it is too soon to lift the ban on holidaymakers and second home owners.
But Mr Bell said the West Country resorts won’t survive without the money that outsiders spend in shops, pubs and attractions.
“We are battling to save thousands of jobs. Let’s welcome our customers, who will share their money to keep Cornish people in jobs.
“I don’t like to see signs like the one we saw on the A30. It is being offensive to a large group of people. I find it unforgivable.”
He understood residents’ concerns but they should not assume outsiders will bring infections to the region.
“It’s accusing people before they even arrive.”
Feelings are running just as high in Devon – tourists arriving in Dawlish yesterday afternoon were greeted by a man dressed as the Grim Reaper who sarcastically held aloft a “Welcome holidaymakers” sign.
But, showing not all residents share his opinion, he was challenged by two men who seized the sign from him.
It is estimated that about 80,000 holidaymakers will be in Cornwall this week – which is 15 per cent to 20 per cent down on usual numbers for this time of year.
And tourists have been warned a sudden cough may mean they have to isolate in their room or caravan and pay for an extra 14 days’ stay.
The warning about being forced to stay for an extra fortnight – and pay for it – if you show signs of the virus is in an information pack issued to all accommodation providers.
It’s been put together by Visit Cornwall with help from public health officials and tourism businesses.
Visit Cornwall chief executive Malcolm Bell said “If people fall ill on holiday and can’t travel back safely using their car they will have to pay for their 14 days in isolation.
“We have to make that clear as the business will be losing trade.”
An extra 14 days would throw the system into chaos for many accommodation providers, as they would have to tell the next people who’ve booked that room or caravan for a holiday to stay at home.
He said the information sheets would be distributed to businesses and placed in accommodation for staycationers when they arrive.
“We are reinforcing the think, plan, book message and we talk about beaches and the idea that they have to have a plan B.
“If they turn up and the beach is busy, be ready to go on somewhere else.
“We also say that we want you to go TO the beach, not go ON the beach, regarding bodily functions.
“We also have strong messages from the RNLI and coastguard about being safe on the beach and in the water. The last thing we need is additional strain on the blue light services.”
It was expected there could be between 75,000 and 80,000 visitors coming to Cornwall which he said was 30 per cent down on usual numbers for this time of year.
But he added that it was expected to rise in the coming weeks to 100,000.