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‘Swift' support package needed as operators deal with ‘flood of cancellations'

21 December 2020 by
‘Swift' support package needed as operators deal with ‘flood of cancellations'

Hospitality trade bodies are calling for a speedy support package for the industry after further restrictions announced on the weekend have left operators dealing with a "flood of cancellations".

Hospitality businesses in Wales were closed on Saturday and it was announced that businesses would be closed in mainland Scotland from Boxing Day, while London and other areas recently put into Tier 3 were put into a new fourth tier, meaning residents will not be able to leave their areas or mix with other households even on Christmas Day.

Home Grown Hotels and Lime Wood Group hotelier Robin Hutson tweeted that the cost of the Tier 4 announcement to his hotels was in the region of £500,000.

Andrew Grahame, chief executive of the Farncombe Estate in the Cotswolds which includes Dormy House, Foxhill Manor and the Fish, tweeted that it had "devastated" business, and although the properties were full for Christmas on Saturday morning, by the evening occupancy was down to 30%.

He added: "Furlough is not enough."

Managing director of the Vineyard Group Andrew McKenzie said on Twitter that more government support and compensation were needed "to keep businesses afloat and as many jobs as possible intact", adding that having three closed hotels in Tier 4 "is bleeding us dry". Restaurateur Mitch Tonks said without guests travelling west from Tier 4 "we are dying on our feet".

Even businesses in Tier 1 have said they are struggling due to the Christmas period travel restrictions. The Hambrough restaurant and bar on the Isle of Wight, which is in Tier 1, said 90% of bookings have been wiped out over Christmas and New Year following the Tier 4 announcement.

UKHospitality wrote to the prime minister last week requesting a enhanced grants for English businesses, and a clear exit strategy from restrictions.

In an open letter to first minister Nicola Sturgeon, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance Marc Crothall quoted a hotel business which will incur losses of £600,000 because of the new restrictions.

The letter said: "Your subsequent announcement that restrictions will be tightened for the foreseeable future is clear and understood and is a decisive response to the health risk. The ask of the industry is that the Scottish government now delivers a similarly swift and committed response to the economic consequences of this action.

"An additional upweighted ‘extraordinary' package of funding must urgently be identified from within the Scottish and UK budgets to support both our frontline businesses and the supply chains over what will now be a significantly more challenging period than any of us had previously understood or anticipated."

Crothall added that "without a more equitable and upweighted level of support being made available quickly, it is likely that many more businesses will be forced into temporary or permanent closure" with operators now dealing with a "flood of cancellations and have lost much-needed revenue" due to the change in restrictions and forthcoming lockdown on Scotland's mainland.

He said the scale of job loss will be "grave" without longer-term financial support and the scale of "damage and devastation" to businesses, local economies, communities and livelihoods will be "unprecedented without immediate, more meaningful, targeted and robust support".

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