THE Lulworth Estate says its revenue suddenly plummeted 90 per cent as the lockdown took hold.

More than 140 staff have now been furloughed on the estate, but the Weld family say they hope, with the support from Government, to be able to cover normal monthly payroll.

And seasonal workers employed after February 28 who have no means to replace expected earnings will also be helped – with the estate saying it will pay those affected up to 80 per cent of their expected wages.

James Weld, the 11th generation owner of the estate, said his immediate concern was for the safety and concerns of the staff.

"Our primary concern is to maintain as much revenue as we are able, and by drastically cutting other costs, I hope that we can continue to cover our normal monthly payroll supported by the Government's job retention scheme," he said.

"The primary difference between a rural estate and many other businesses is that our staff are also part of the community on and around the estate.

"Their welfare and our ability to continue to pay wages is essential to everyone’s social wellbeing.

"Many of our staff are also residential tenants and we need to be able to continue to pay their wages."

Visitors who have booked holidays on the estate and cannot now take them are being offered alternative dates and even full refunds.

Revenue plummeted by 90 per cent as the pandemic struck, and the 20 square mile estate is currently operating with a skeleton staff of around 20 people.

The Weld family say that while the Government has put a huge amount of effort into reducing the impact of the pandemic, it is inevitable that some people and businesses will "fall through the cracks."

James said: "We have committed to paying 80 per cent of the expected earnings of those we employed after February 28, which we are unable to recover from the Treasury, but are unable to make similar assurances to those we may have taken on since we closed.

"The tourism industry is unique in that its services, such as holidays, are usually paid in advance and those that are now unable to take their holidays are seeking repayment. The absolute need to retain cash is directly contrary to proper customer-care and is testing many in the industry, both big and small.

"We have decided that future customer loyalty is more important than preserving cash and we are either offering alternative dates to those unable to take their holiday or, where there is no alternative, repaying anything they have already paid."