Vaccine passports could create a ‘nightmare' for hospitality

29 March 2021 by
Vaccine passports could create a ‘nightmare' for hospitality

Requiring guests to show a vaccine passport to enter restaurants, pubs or hotels would create a "nightmare" for businesses, hospitality venue owners have warned.

The issue of Covid certificates has been raised again after prime minister Boris Johnson said last week the concept "should not be totally alien" and may be "up to individual publicans" to decide.

It is understood the results of a government review on the use of Covid certification is expected to be published in the coming weeks after the call for evidence closed today.

The Caterer spoke to several operators who felt vaccine passports could work for international travel, but worried about the government asking hospitality to enforce the rules.

Paul Foster, chef-owner at Michelin-starred Salt in Stratford-upon-Avon, who won the Newcomer Catey in 2019, said: "It creates unnecessary conflict and puts my team in an uncomfortable position. The way you greet guests is one of the most important things and quizzing them puts you on the back foot.

"If the rules are flaky it should be down to the government to police it. It's not great to put younger staff in that position."

Murray Lamont, owner of the 30-bedroom Mackays hotel in Wick, Caithness, said: "I don't think it should be left to restaurateurs, hoteliers or licensed premises to police the situation. Some other form of control would have to be put in place. Until everyone has had the opportunity to have a jab, hospitality won't be operating on a level playing field."

Michelle Utz, owner of the Hoop, a village pub in Stock, Essex, said requiring pubs to check for vaccine passports would open a "can of worms" and cause a drop in trade.

She added: "It would be an absolute nightmare. If the government doesn't enforce it then we're not going to do it. We haven't got the time to stand and interrogate people.

"How do we distinguish if people have allergies or conditions or can't have the jab? What if some of my staff can't have it? It doesn't make sense.

"I'm not Heathrow Airport – I don't have million-pound technology to scan people and check passports are real. If [Johnson] wants us to do it, he needs to give us technology and funding to support the loss of trade. Otherwise more businesses will close."

Many hotel operators contacted by The Caterer said it was too early to confirm whether visitors would have to provide proof of vaccination or whether they would test guests or staff, but said they were awaiting government guidelines on the issue.

Despite this, Paula Ellis, general manager of the Retreats Group, which owns three hotels on St Davids Peninsula in Pembrokeshire, confirmed to The Caterer in early March that the group would only be taking bookings from domestic guests who have been vaccinated.

The 11-bedroom Kylesku hotel, in Sutherland in the Highlands, previously asked staff to provide PCR tests if they were travelling from outside the Highlands, but is unlikely to request vaccine passports from guests on reopening.

Owner Tanja Lister said: "There would be many challenges with this, both operational and ethical, but we will keep an open mind and decide when we have greater clarity on the type of ongoing threat Covid will bring in the future."

Although there has been no confirmation that vaccine passports will be required in domestic settings, several business owners said the government review was enough to make them nervous.

Utz said: "I know it's not definite but I wouldn't be shocked if it did happen. I worry because when there were rumours about only opening hospitality outside, pubs said it was ridiculous but then it did happen.

"[Johnson] should be thinking before he speaks for our industry, rather than just blurting things out and making our lives more stressful. The government needs to realise throwing things in at the last minute doesn't work in hospitality."

Photo: Shutterstock

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