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Welsh hospitality asks for six weeks' notice for reopening

03 June 2020 by
Welsh hospitality asks for six weeks' notice for reopening

Welsh hospitality businesses have asked for six weeks' notice for reopening, support for seasonal businesses through the winter, and an extension to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) for the hospitality, tourism and event sectors.

David Chapman, executive director of UKHospitality Cymru, said the trade body has requested a six-week lead-in from the Welsh government which, unlike other countries in the UK, has given no indication of when businesses could reopen.

He added: "As we move closer to some UK businesses opening, it is important that the industry has alignment from all governments to make the most of sustaining employment in all parts of the UK. We are in a constant, constructive dialogue with the government and regular dialogue with the deputy minister for tourism."

Chris Harrod, chef-patron of the Michelin-starred Whitebrook restaurant with rooms in Monmouth, said he would need approximately six weeks' notice to build up bookings and get his business ready for reopening. Sector-specific guidance on how businesses can reopen safely is yet to be issued by the UK government.

"We can't just up and open next week – it takes us a while to get customers in because we're not a city centre restaurant," said Harrod, speaking to The Caterer.

He urged the Welsh government to go further and give guidance on when businesses could expect to reopen, as there is confusion with people seeking to book at the restaurant from 4 July, the provisional date from when restaurants in England could start to reopen.

"What we need is a longer period of time to start generating bookings," he said. "We have to think ahead. I need to be taking my August bookings now, because if we wait until August to start taking bookings, we're going to do very minimal bookings."

Paula Ellis, general manager of the Retreats Group which includes Twr y Felin, Roch Castle and Penrhiw Priory hotels in Pembrokeshire, is more optimistic. She is already allowing guests to book provisionally for August, for which she already has approximately 50% occupancy across the properties, and added that once the reopening date is announced, expects to be "inundated with demand".

However, both Ellis and Harrod expressed concerns over the CJRS changes, which could see Welsh businesses paying some of their staff costs despite taking no revenue, while their English counterparts are open and operational. From August employers will need to pay furloughed employees' National Insurance and pension contributions. In September they will need to contribute 10% towards wages, rising to 20% in October, before the scheme closes.

They were particularly concerned about seasonally-dependant businesses being left with little to no support to face another winter having taken little to no revenue this summer.

Ellis described it as "falling off the edge of a financial cliff" when the CJRS ends at the end of October for seasonal Welsh businesses. She suggested an extended furlough scheme for the hospitality, tourism and event sectors, which will be some of the last to recover, which would allow businesses to "limp along until Easter".

She added: "Then we can catch our breath and give it our best shot next summer. If the UK government isn't going to help, it's going to be a sad story, especially for so many of the small businesses that make up the Welsh hospitality and tourism scene."

Hospitality businesses potentially being able to open outdoor spaces earlier also did not seem to bring much hope, with Ellis pointing out that businesses will be "so strapped for cash" it would be unlikely they could afford to invest in glamping pods or outdoor equipment on top of extra costs such as sanitisation and PPE for something that would only be used in good weather.

Paula Ellis: The GM of the Retreats Group on surviving the crisis >>

Wales extends coronavirus lockdown >>

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