Results revealed today from a survey of hospitality businesses paint a gloomy picture of low expectations from operators in a sector that is the UK's third highest employer.
The findings have prompted renewed calls from UKHospitality for urgent commitments from government to extend support for the hospitality sector, as it examines the safest commercially viable route back to normality to safeguard businesses and the more than one million jobs that are at risk.
The survey's respondents overwhelmingly expect a very slow recovery in the second half of 2020, with a ‘worst-case scenario' in December down by 61% for the same period last year, and a worrying best-case scenario of a 31% decline.
The shorter-term outlook is yet more severe, with expectations for August 2020, a key month for hospitality and tourism, at between 82% and 53% decline.
The results come days after UKHospitality's Kate Nicholls wrote to MP Michael Gove with a six-point plan to shore up the hopes of an achievable return to a healthy hospitality sector. It urged longer-term commitments from government on furloughs, rents, loans, insurance, regulations and stimuli for sector growth.
Nicholls said: "A bleak outlook from hospitality operators should send shock waves across government and the economy. Hospitality is a key economic force for the UK, with 3.2 million jobs reliant upon it in normal times.
"Social interaction is key to hospitality, so at a time when public health is rightly the government's top priority, it is essential that our sector is seen as a special case. For most venues, enforcing full social distancing is financially unviable, though we are undertaking substantial work to get prepare for a return.
"The government's generous support measures so far have given many operators real hopes of survival – it would be a tragic waste of jobs and public funds if such businesses were to fall at the last, with the recovery rug pulled from beneath them. A continuation of business support is the only way to avoid carnage in hospitality, one of the UK economy's jewels in the crown."