The Prime Minister’s announcement yesterday on his roadmap to recovery out of lockdown has been met with disappointment from hotel leaders, calling the plan a ‘bitter pill to swallow’, with hospitality ‘last in the queue to reopen’.
Yesterday, Boris Johnson revealed his four-step plan, which will be rolled out in five-week intervals, with hotels, pubs and restaurants able to trade indoors from May 17 at the earliest, as part of step 3 of the roadmap.
Venues are able to trade outside from April 12, with non-essential retail, gyms and leisure facilities as well as public buildings permitted to open from this date.
Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister is due to make an announcement on her plans in the coming days.
Michael Caines, chef patron at Lympstone Manor in Devon said the news ‘doesn’t make much sense’ and that the hospitality had been ‘singled out’ in its wait to reopen until May
“This afternoon’s news was a bitter pill to swallow, as an industry we should be heralding the lifting of the draconian measures of the curfew and the substantial meals, but this news is dwarfed by the blow dealt to us as a sector that we cannot fully reopen until the 17th May. It doesn’t make much sense that our sector must wait another month to open while other closer contact sectors can go back. Whilst outdoor hospitality can re-open, how can any business reliably base their operations on the English weather.
“Hotels however are not able to take any advantage of this slight relaxation. It seems that our industry has been singled out in its wait to reopen until May, all the while shortening what could be a profitable season and reducing the opportunity to make back the losses in what could have been a great spring of Staycations. The news is staggering and disappointing.”
Danny Pecorelli, MD at the Exclusive Collection echoed his comments, saying it was ‘hugely disappointing that once again hospitality is last in the queue to reopening, despite the ‘enormous efforts made to provide safe and secure environments and the lack of evidence of hospitality driving transmission rates.’
He adds: “We are going to lose so many more amazing restaurants, pubs, cafes and hotels even if the chancellor does pull all the stops out during the budget. Three more months of being unable to fully trade will be the final straw for many.”
On Twitter, Robin Hutson said: “I wonder if @BorisJohnson @RishiSunak will refund hospitality businesses the millions spent making our places covid safe last year. Had they told us ‘it doesn’t matter how safe you make your establishment you wont be allowed to open anyway’ we wouldn’t have bothered.”
Peter Hancock, chief executive at Pride of Britain Hotels commented: “May 17th feels a very long way off and there are eye-watering losses to be racked up while closed in the interim. However, at last there is some degree of certainty so hoteliers can at least plan for the dramatic revival we all expect to come from domestic tourism this year. For Pride of Britain, our task right now is to keep the brand in people’s minds and to encourage advance direct bookings. Sadly it will be a little longer before luxury hotels in the major cities can expect to recover, due to their greater reliance on guests from overseas.”
Sally Beck, general manager at Royal Lancaster London said: “I am genuinely frustrated that museums and retail can open before hotels, with our safety measures and social distancing that we have all put in place, we should be able to open hotels on 12 April as we are much safer than retail with our contactless check-ins, room service and minibars.”
Serena von der Heyde, owner of Georgian House Hotel and Victorian House Hotel commented: “The roadmap announcement is a terrible blow for us. We have to survive three more months with no work and no income. When nearly every other business in the country is able to reopen, I cannot understand the logic in punishing the hotel industry, especially given the fact that we managed to operate safely with social distancing restrictions last year.”
The industry will now have to wait again until the Budget announcement on March 3 to see if support measures will be extended or new schemes introduced, which will be absolutely vital to the survival of the whole hospitality sector.
The furlough scheme is currently due to end in April, while the business rates holiday will end on March 31 under the relief programme in place at the moment.
David Morgan-Hewitt warned government of these challenges ahead for the industry. He said: “I would implore the government to be very aware of the serious challenges which will continue to face the hotel sector over the next few months, especially hotels in London and other major cities. We cannot play our vital role within the community without continuing Government assistance to save thousands of jobs and once again provide the huge financial contribution we make to the British economy. I sincerely hope that Treasury plans now exist to extend the business rates holiday for the full 2021/2022 financial year and that VAT remains at 5% for our sector.”
To read the full details of the stages of the roadmap, click HERE