Hoteliers frustrated over May reopening

23 February 2021 by
Hoteliers frustrated over May reopening

Hoteliers have expressed frustration that properties in England will have to wait until mid-May at the earliest to reopen, behind non-essential retail and despite having housed vulnerable people, quarantined travellers and key workers even during lockdowns.

Pubs and restaurants in England will be able to start reopening outdoor areas from 12 April, but indoor spaces including hotels will have to remain closed until 17 May, prime minister Boris Johnson announced yesterday.

Sally Beck, general manager of the 411-bedroom Royal Lancaster London, said she was "genuinely frustrated" that museums and shops will reopen ahead of hotels

"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," she said.

"That said I am very pleased that our restaurants and bars can start working on the rule of six again from 17 May and that the curfews and alcohol with a ‘substantial meal initiatives' have been scrapped. I'm really delighted about all events being able to restart again from 21 June, a great result for those providing services for events, conferences and banqueting."

Lionel Benjamin, co-founder of Ago Hotels, said quarantine accommodation has proven that hotels can operate securely, and that the government should trust hotels to open in a responsible and safe manner at the same time as self-catering accommodation, not from 17 May as announced.

He said: "Simple measures, such as limiting food services, closing communal areas and reserving areas for people who are fully vaccinated could significantly enhance safety and bring the risk level closer to self-catering accommodation. Waiting until the middle of May to reopen a sector which has already needed significant financial support seems unnecessary and we urge the government to reconsider."

David Orr, chief executive of Resident Hotels, said he was disappointed that hotels will have to wait to reopen for at least 12 weeks and urged the government to extend targeted sectoral support.

Eva Mount, general manager of the 53-bedroom Guardsman hotel in London's St James's, said it was a shame hotels will not be able to open during Easter "as this would have helped us to financially and in terms of bringing our teams back to work".

She added: "In some cases our staff will have been furloughed for more than a year. I do hope furlough is extended until at least 17 May so companies will not be financially impacted further and if flexible furlough could continue until the summer this would help the hospitality business further until we start getting back on our feet."

Debrah Dhugga, chief operations officer at the Apartment Group, added that outdoor socialising from April was "a step in the right direction", but a lot of operators do not have outdoor areas or beer gardens and "this is going to continue to hurt them".

She said: "Giving a business one week's notice of confirmation for reopening is tough... We need an immediate update on the support moving forward."

Nick Bannister, managing director of the four-AA-star, 71-bedroom Coniston hotel in Skipton, North Yorkshire, said he was "delighted" with the detail on dates and "at last feeling really positive".

However, Danny Pecorelli, managing director of the Exclusive Collection, said it was "hugely disappointing" that hospitality was "last in the queue to reopening" and that three more months of being unable to fully trade "will be the final straw for many".

UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls agreed that the May reopening of hotels "makes little sense" when properties have been housing key workers, NHS staff, quarantined passengers and vulnerable people through the peaks of the pandemic.

Serena von der Heyde, owner of the 60-bedroom Georgian House hotel in London's Victoria and the 19-bedroom Victorian House hotel in Grasmere, Cumbria, said it was a "terrible blow" that operators have to survive "three more months with no work and no income".

She said: "Furlough supports our workforce, but it does not support our businesses. We will need grant aid again to make it through. What a desolate prospect for our future."

Andrew Grahame, chief executive of the Farncombe Estate, said he was "hugely disappointed" with the result and that a mid-May re-opening "will be the final nail in the coffin for many hospitality businesses which is so incredibly sad".

"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," said David Morgan-Hewitt, managing director of the five-red-AA-star, 69-bedroom Goring hotel in London's Belgravia and chairman of the Master Innholders.

"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."

Photo: Shutterstock

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