Cornwall welcomed two million visitors since lockdown restrictions were lifted in July but tourism businesses still face a battle to survive.
Mr Bell said that being able to open up the industry again in July had meant the economic crisis had not been as bad as it could have been. But he warned that businesses would still need a lot of support and financial backing to ensure they can keep job losses to a minimum.
He said that in April, May and June the combined loss of the industry in Cornwall was £750 million and if businesses had not be able to welcome guests again from July 4 it would have been worse.
Mr Bell said that July and August had been good months for the industry and September “has been stonkingly good”.
He added that October and November were also looking like they could be stronger for visitor numbers than previous years.
Mr Bell warned, though, that the losses experienced during lockdown were still not being made up and in the best case scenario they could recover by May or June next year.
He added: “The worst case scenario is it could push us into a position where the industry faces four winters.”
The Visit Cornwall chief executive said different parts of the tourism industry had reported different experiences. He said that all had faced higher costs in order to comply with restrictions and guidelines but not all had seen an increase in business.
“Hotels had higher costs but they had good business levels. That doesn’t mean they will not be making redundancies – quite a lot will be making redundancies.”
Mr Bell said that attractions had faced the biggest challenges and said that Flambards had had 70% of its usual visitors and attractions such as Paradise Park also had to maintain costs of feeding animals. He also highlighted that the National Trust and Eden Project making redundancies showed the impact on attractions..
Mr Bell said: “From where we were in June we have done well, but doing well doesn’t mean doing brilliantly.”
He said one of the main challenges for all tourism businesses was cashflow and there needed to be more support and help for companies.
And he warned that there would be more job losses on the way: “They will be laying off a lot more permanent staff. People who have worked for businesses for many years will be laid off and made redundant.”
The tourism boss also said the supply chain for the tourism industry was also being affected by the crisis which could also trigger wider job losses.
However he did say that it was not all doom and gloom pointing to Watergate Bay Hotel’s plans to redevelop the former Fifteen restaurant into accommodation.
Mr Bell said a number of the support measures put in place had been helpful including cuts in VAT, business grants and rates relief.
But he said one of the biggest positives had been that there was no increase in COVID-19 cases recorded as a result of visitors. There had been fears that an influx of visitors to Cornwall could result in a spread of the virus.
He said: “We had two million visitors across July 4 to now. It was very limited the virus being transmitted. The visitor economy showed that it was able to operate effectively with the virus during the summer months.
“Every Wednesday (when he would get figures) it was like getting your exam results, it was a white knuckle ride. A lot of the businesses did an awful lot to avoid any situations.”
Mr Bell said it was also due to the majority of visitors also following guidelines and restrictions while on holiday in Cornwall.
He added that Visit Cornwall would be taking part in an “Escape the Everyday” campaign which is encouraging people to take holidays during autumn and winter.
And he said there were plans for a ’50 things to do everyday’ campaign which would set out various activities which can be done in the autumn and winter in Cornwall.