The UK hospitality industry has given a cautious welcome to the government’s plan to fully-end Covid-19 restrictions in England later this month.
In an announcement on Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said controls would end from step 4 of the roadmap and that the country would have to learn to live with the virus.
Limits on social contact will stop, meaning there will be no restrictions on indoor or outdoor gatherings. All venues currently closed will be allowed to reopen, and there will be no legal requirement for table service in hospitality settings.
“The Prime Minister’s announcement marks a major milestone in how England will come to live with Covid and will be celebrated by hospitality business owners and their staff across the country,” Kate Nicholls, CEO of UKHospitality, said.
Vivek Chadha, managing director of Nine Group, an operator, owner and developer of multiple hotels in the UK, was similarly optimistic.
“As we prepare for our second hotel opening this year, the prospect of a full unlocking on the 19 July is very welcome and provides huge confidence in the sector. As people return to offices and the events industry comes back to life there will be huge demand for our hotels,” he said.
David Orr, CEO of Resident Hotels, which has five properties — four currently open — in the UK struck a more cautious tone.
“Since the 17th May we have been welcoming back our guests who are delighted to enjoy the freedoms ‘available’ in the streets of London and Liverpool. We cautiously welcome the announcement that restrictions will be lifted further but we will remain vigilant with our procedures in place for the foreseeable future,” he said.
Ordinarily, the Prime Minister’s comments would be treated as great news by the industry but it comes at a time when Covid-19 cases are once again rising steeply in the country with many people currently being forced to self-isolate, presenting a potential staffing problem for businesses.
UKHospitality’s Nicholls warned about the damage being done by the self-isolation situation, “With cases predicted to continue to rise, this means that hospitality’s recovery after 16 months of lockdown and severely disrupted trading will be harmed. Operators will be forced into reducing their operating hours or closing venues completely,” she said.
“We urge the government to move quicker on this issue to prevent the summer being cancelled and vast swathes of the population unnecessarily confined to their homes.”
One thing worth keeping an eye on is whether increasing case numbers have any impact on people’s appetite to travel either for leisure or business.
Consultancy BVA BDRC’s ClearSight on Recovery report, released this week based on data collected before Monday’s announcement, showed a slowdown in the British public’s recovering level of comfort staying in a hotel in the next month or so. Not great news for the industry.
“The key question for consumer sentiment, therefore, is whether a blanket Government decree that “normality is here” will cut the mustard and convince people to ignore rising case numbers, keep calm and carry on?” said James Bland, director and head of hotels research at the company said.