The coronavirus pandemic could have an upside for regional UK businesses as Britons opt for staycations, Inn Collection Group MD Sean Donkin has told MCA.

Donkin envisages the domestic tourism market will be “very strong” for the next 18 months, which would benefit the collection Northumberland and Lake District based estate of inns.

However he warned there would need to be caution in these tourism hotspots, with the risk of spreading infection to rural communities.

Meanwhile, he described the lockdown as a “pause button”, which would delay, but not threaten the Alchemy-backed group’s growth ambitions.

Donkin told MCA: “I think that the length of the impact will essentially be forever as new mindsets of both the customer, staff and HSE etc are all adapted to fit with the current circumstances.

“However, I do believe that the effects may also provide opportunity and need not be negative. I would imagine that the domestic travel market will be very strong for 18 months or so, but also, as restrictions on foreign visitor are gently eased, then the international market will see positive growth for a number of years.

“This will be dependent largely on the messages given out both by central government and regional councils and their supporting tourism bodies.

“The aim has always been to increase visitation, but in the short term, there may very well be over-demand for the rural experience and that is something which for remote and normally small conurbations of a localised population which could have devastating impacts.”

On future growth prospects for the group, Donkin added: “I would view the current scenario as a pause button. Consequently, the medium term outturn of growth for our business may be slightly behind what we envisaged at the start of the year, but I fully believe that the long term view of Inn Collection group remains as a strong regional growth business who are keen to acquire quality assets in dominant locations.”