Another week, another deflating and confusing policy announcement from the government.
We hoped that we’d seen the end of the tier system and that the November national lockdown would spell the end of the most extreme draconian measures seen in this country in its peacetime history.
Instead, the dreaded tier system is back and most people are in a worse tier than they were before November’s lockdown.
There’s no sugar coating it: this is a hammer blow to thousands of hotels across the whole United Kingdom. Tier 2 will be a struggle, but Tier 3 seems totally unviable for many, based on the conversations that I’ve been having with a wide range of hoteliers.
There are myriad questions that arise in light of the latest chapter in 2020’s dystopian narrative, most of which are entirely pragmatic about whether a given hotel will even be able to operate, and, if it can’t, whether it can survive until spring, which is when we’re all banking on the sunlit uplands appearing on the horizon.
But there is also a burning question about fairness. Why is hospitality the punch bag and scapegoat for the government every time it tightens restrictions on basic freedoms and liberties? Using the government’s own data, hospitality has been responsible for only 3% of coronavirus transmissions, with settings like schools, homes, hospitals and prisons far greater areas of risk.
Hotels (as well as pubs and restaurants) have put in a Herculean shift this year. They’ve bent over backwards and spent eye-watering sums to tick boxes and make themselves covid-secure, whether it’s PPE, sanitiser, plastic screens, one-way systems or contactless menus and payments. You couldn’t pass on a virus to someone else even if you tried in the hotels that I managed to visit between July and November.
Many hotels have already made the decision to close until February/March, with some choosing to undergo refurbs in the meantime. Yet again, these companies deserve credit for trying to make the best of an awful situation.
There are court cases against the government lingering in the background, but for now there is no choice but to jump through the increasingly narrow hoops that are being presented to hotel owners. Their perseverance, creativity and adaptability during these surreal times continue to astonish me. Those sunlit uplands can’t come quickly enough.