Clarity required over hotel grants

Premier Inn

Hotels in England were awaiting clarification on whether they would be able to access government support during lockdown.

Hotels will be able to open under restricted conditions which, it was feared, would mean they would be unable to apply for grants offered to premises forced to close.

UKHospitality CEO Kate Nicholls said: “For accommodation providers, people may stay overnight for work purposes where it is not reasonably possible to work from home - there is no legal definition of work, it is not restricted to key workers and the onus is on individual not the business. So hotels just need to ask and remind customers.

“Hotels can also remain open to accommodate those unable to return to their main residences, those self isolating, those for whom the accommodation is their main residence, people attending a funeral or moving house or vulnerable people.”

Business premises forced to close in England were to receive grants worth up to £3,000 per month under the Local Restrictions Support Grant. Also, £1.1bn was being given to Local Authorities, distributed on the basis of £20 per head, for one-off payments to enable them to support businesses more broadly. It was hoped that hotels would be access at least one of the two schemes, with a further government update awaited.

Additional support saw the Furlough scheme extended until December, with employees receiving 80% of their current salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500. The deadline to apply for government-backed loans was extended to 31 January.

Nicholls added: “The costs to hospitality businesses of a second lockdown will be even heavier than the first, coming after periods of forced closure, the accumulation of mass debt and then significantly lower trading due to the restrictions of recent weeks. The sector was hit hardest and first, and this recent shutdown will hurt for months and years to come. The extension of furlough for a further month does help to protect our workforce during this difficult time.

“If hospitality, the sector that is our country’s third largest employer, is to survive and help drive economic recovery, it will need equivalent – or more – support than that of the first lockdown.”

UKinbound has called for the creation of an ‘Inbound Tourism Resilience Fund’ to help businesses wholly reliant on international visitors to survive until the return of the market in Spring 2021, after VisitBritain reported a 76% fall in international travellers through 2020.

Joss Croft, CEO, UKinbound, said: “The UK economy is losing £457m each week as a result of the fall in international visitor numbers, which highlights how a failure to support this industry will hold back our national economic recovery. Since March, we have seen the number of international visitors fall off a cliff, with the government’s delays on testing and a blunt quarantine policy halting a summer recovery and costing businesses millions in lost revenue.

“It is essential that the government provide targeted support to the UK’s 200-plus inbound tour operators and DMCs who have been left in the cold by existing government support schemes leaving many facing an uncertain future. These businesses will be vital to bringing back international visitors to the UK and to ensuring that tourism in the UK can make its vital contribution to our economic recovery from the pandemic.

“Without this support, we risk pushing international visitors to other European destinations once international travel restarts, causing irrevocable damage to the communities and regions who rely on tourism and leaving the government’s Global Britain ambitions in tatters.”

There have been further calls for the government to extend the current business rates holiday for retail, leisure and hospitality businesses, from London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

In a joint letter with the Chair of London Councils, Khan said such a move would provide a “lifeline” to businesses in London that had been hit following the collapse in tourism.

 

Insight: So, will you close your hotel? The views varied. At Whitbread the group’s hotels will follow the guidance and close to leisure guests from 5 November until to 2 December, commenting: “The new guidance unfortunately does mean we may be unable to keep all of our hotels open during lockdown, though we will try and ensure a good geographical spread across England remains open so all travellers who need to stay and are permitted to do so under government guidance, can.”

The picture was the same at Travelodge, in keeping with the first lockdown in England. PPHE said that it was considering its position and reviewing its operational structure “to ensure alignment with near-term demand”. In keeping with the success of the segment in the first lockdown, Aparthotel group Roomzzz was also staying open.

When asked whether he was closing, Richard Lee, GM at the Hilton Garden Inn Heathrow, which is owned and operated by Pandox, told us “Absolutely not, the show must go on”. Fighting talk, but for some, without support the curtains will close.