In the latest in a series talking to members of the sector during the COVID-19 outbreak, Emily Newman interviews Jane Pendlebury, Chief Executive, HOSPA
Looking after members and answering their queries. I have not shared facts and figures about COVID-19 as our members are professionals within hospitality and I take it for granted that they are using tried and trusted sources for current affairs. However HOSPA has created a couple of new pages on the website, one for anyone to share their business offers of support that are specifically relevant to the current crisis (https://www.hospa.org/crisis-support) and a second page highlighting the amazing things that people involved in hospitality are doing to support key workers or serve their local community (https://www.hospa.org/crisis-positive-news). Our blogs are also well populated, most recently with support for re-opening planning for both hotels and restaurants.
Should the government follow the French authorities, and those in other European countries, and offer voucher refunds to preserve cash flow?
Many (if not most) HOSPA members are struggling with cash flow, and the repayment of deposits for accommodation is rubbing salt into the wounds. I believe our Government is doing a very good job in supporting hospitality, but I wonder if they fully appreciate how long this will need to continue. Hospitality businesses were amongst the first to fall victim to the restrictions and are likely to be the last to be up-and-running and fully functional again. Assuming social distancing measures are in place for months to come, it will be very difficult for many of the venues to re-open at the same capacity as was previously possible – something that will have drastic implications for profit. We need continued support if we are to survive as a thriving industry. UKHospitality is doing a great job lobbying on behalf of the hospitality industry, and this will need to carry on for the foreseeable in order to emphasise the predicament we’re in.
How easy will it be to open the shutters and start trading again?
We have written a couple of blogs about this. The good news now is that there is hopefully time to plan. Planning is the key to success. I have heard stories about hoteliers flushing every loo in each hotel room every day, which – especially when lifts have been switched off – can be an onerous task, however very possibly a great strategy. Although, of course, flushing loos isn’t enough on its own!
Once hotels reopen to welcome guests, post-stay room cleanliness will be a major issue. Singapore is set to introduce a room cleanliness standard that’s similar to food hygiene. The difficulty with this though, will be the cost. I read a stat recently that for a care home to properly clean a post-COVID-19 room it costs over £600. Given the margins involved with hospitality, a similar undertaking simply isn’t tenable. Practically every hotel – no matter its star rating – would need to charge an appropriate room fee to cover it in order to break even, let alone profit.
The HOSPA blog offers more specifics on pre-opening checklists.
What is your hope for the hospitality industry in a post COVID-19 world?
My hope is that the V shaped recovery is a realistic prediction; my fear is that it isn’t. Given the warnings over long term social distancing and further lockdowns, I suspect the recovery will be a long road. Attitudes towards travel will change. Conference calls using video have proved so successful that business meetings are likely to reduce. However, the hospitality industry is full of entrepreneurs and naturally optimistic people so we can expect an enthusiastic attitude to recovery. I see a lot of ‘staycations’ and focus on cleaning and hygiene! I suspect the hospitality landscape will be significantly different this time next year.
Never has it been more important for us to stay close to the sector, to inform and support. We're running a new series of conversations - Checking In - and will be talking to members of the sector during the COVID-19 outbreak. If you'd like to be involved, please get in touch.