Hoteliers in Bristol say the government’s roadmap to recovery will lead to more short-term pain for their businesses – but will hopefully result in long-term gain.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled his plan for what he described as a ‘cautious but irreversible’ road map, providing a ‘one-way road to freedom’ – but with hotels being unable to re-open until 17 May at the earliest.
While hoteliers in Bristol are disappointed at not being able to open earlier – something they say they are ready for – they welcome the Government’s commitment to do everything possible to avoid any further lockdowns.
Raphael Herzog, Chair of the Bristol Hoteliers Association, said: “Once again, our plea for hotels to be treated fairly and equally to the likes of non-essential shops has been ignored. We have invested significantly in making our premises as Covid-safe as possible; it is safer to stay in a hotel having a drink at a table, with dinner served, than it is visiting a shopping mall or a grocery store. It’s safer for people to socialise in Covid-secure hotels and restaurants rather than have parties in their flats, houses or gardens.”
He said: “We are ready to open now. Since we have to endure this short-term pain for long-term gain, we are looking to Rishi Sunak to ensure hotels get all the support they need, and we would like to hear from him before he delivers his budget next week.
“One of the most difficult things about the end of last year is that restrictions were lifted, many hotels started to re-stock and plan events, as well as organise adequate staffing, only to be placed under lockdown again. If the Government’s roadmap strategy means that, when we are allowed to open again, there will be a much lower risk of their being another lockdown, then in the long-term this will be much better.
“At least it gives us time to prepare properly, and I hope that it also means we will be able to open without any restrictions, except for sensible social distancing.
“As we’re unable to open until May 17 at the earliest, it’s even more important that the Government provides us with the support we need to ensure our businesses survive. From that date it seems we will be able to have weddings and conference but restricted number, hopefully wedding will be bigger than two households .
“We are all hoping for a surge in bookings when restrictions are lifted, as people will be desperate to take a well-earned break and escape from their own four walls. We think staycations are going to be extremely popular later this year. We welcome the potential of removing limits and restrictions on numbers from the 21/06, this gives us hope that we will be able to start operating normally. But until then, we need to ensure we will be able to meet that demand when it comes. That means we need to see the furlough scheme extended for those businesses not able to open until further down the road to recovery and at least end of August. The reduced rate of VAT needs to be extended until year end and we need a 100% holiday on business rates.”
While he welcomed news that pubs and restaurants will be able to re-open without the 10pm curfew imposed previously, and with the easing of restrictions being applied nationwide rather than using the tier system, this did little to help hoteliers.
He has repeatedly written to local MPs, seeking support and is now repeating his calls for there to be dedicated hotel representation on the Government’s “Build Back Better Council” which was launched earlier this month. This aims to bring together business leaders from many sectors to work with the government to unlock investment, boost job creation and help shape post-pandemic economic recovery plans, but Mr Herzog said hotels were not given the voice and support they need on that body.
He said: “When restrictions eased last summer, people were quick to return to the bars, restaurants and hotels, and we hope to be able to welcome them back again this summer, knowing that we’ve got the support we need to secure our long-term future. With the right support, at least we know now that when we are allowed to re-open, we are likely to be able to stay open which means we can truly start to recover.”