AS hotels and guest houses in Weymouth prepare to reopen this Saturday, hoteliers have spoken of the big day with a mix of excitement and trepidation.

At family-run St John's Guest House, Lynne and Andy Fisher pride themselves on offering a cosy, family environment, with 14 year-old daughter Chloe also helping out.

Lynne explained how they will be working hard to strike a balance between protecting guests and putting the 'social' into social distancing.

"It's a balancing act - I know people are nervous, so it's just about following the rules," she said.

"All of our rooms are ensuite so once the guests are in the building they're self contained. We've closed the guest lounge as it's an area where people could be mixing; we'll have hand sanitiser in the lobby and will keep a respectful distance from guests.

"I think the main thing is that although we want to social distance we still want to be sociable - it's a beautiful house - it's about us and how we are with people, giving them our time - but at the moment we'll do that from a distance to make sure they're safe, and that we're safe as well.

"There's definitely a bit of nerves - but we're hoping we've got the balance right about keeping people safe and still making everyone feel welcome. People are less likely to go abroad at the moment - hopefully they'll come and visit Weymouth."

One of the town's larger hotels, the Rembrandt, will also open on Saturday.

The hotel manager - who asked not to be named - said: "It's a little bit of a relief - there's a feeling of excitement but also concern - there's still a lot of uncertainty from both staff and guests, but we need to open to make the business viable for the future.

"We're reopening with a limited capacity and limited staff; the leisure club remains shut and we're not allowed to host receptions, weddings or parties."

The hotel's restaurant will only be serving guests, and not members of the public, the manager explained.

"The guidelines have been clear on some points but less clear on things like events and functions," he added.

"We've had to make a lot of changes in line with our risk assessments - we've invested in training, PPE and have social distancing measures to reduce contact between guests and staff. Staff will also have a heath assessment before they come back."

During lockdown the Rembrandt was awarded a contract by Dorset Council to accommodate discharged hospital patients who did not have coronavirus, in order to free up hospital beds.

This came to an end around six weeks ago, the manager explained, and helped somewhat to cover the business' overheads.

"That allowed us to keep the lights on for a few weeks and we were pleased to help but towards the end it wasn't viable for the council to keep it going as there wasn't the need," he said.

"(Bookings) are picking up - it's not huge but it's steady - we're not at the levels of previous years, not by a long way - it's encouraging but still early days.

"We have a very mixed business - we have a lot of corporate customers and that seems more promising than the leisure market. We don't do groups, which is fortunate for us since that side of (the tourist economy) has been decimated.

"We need to be positive and we're hopeful we can have some kind of summer otherwise things will be very dark - winter is coming as they say."

With a slightly later start is the 75-bedroom Prince Regent hotel on Weymouth seafront, which will be opening on Monday.

Manager Matt Walsh said: "There will be social distancing throughout - we're doing a single seating plan (in the restaurant) and will see how things go - if the numbers start picking up we'll most likely go towards separate dining times. We've got new tables that can easily be wiped down and sanitised.

"We can't have live music so instead are planning game shows on the stage area that people can interact with while social distancing."

The hotel has some bookings lined up. Asked whether things were looking healthy for the start of the season, Mr Walsh said: "For this time of year, no - but it's a good start.

"We won't be able to have a full house because of social distancing - we'll probably aim for about 60 - 80 per cent (capacity)."

Asked whether the season could pick up due to people staying in the UK for a holiday, Mr Walsh added: "I think there could be a massive influx (of guests) and it could go alright.

"I'm a bit nervous but also excited. It's kind of a day-by-day type thing - we're all set and ready."