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Hospitality: fears of devastation

UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls has said the survival of many jobs and businesses in the sector now relies on Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s budget announcements on 3 March.

Kate Nicholls, UKHospitality

Following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement of the proposed roadmap, including that the earliest hotels can reopen is 17 May, she said: “The Chancellor has just nine days to save thousands of businesses and hundreds of thousands of jobs that simply will not be there without a substantial package of compensation. According to the latest Government data nearly two-thirds of hospitality businesses will run out of cash before May, before they are allowed to reopen.”

Describing the sector as ‘devastated’ by the latest announcement, Nicholls pointed out that much of it would have been closed for nearly 200 days with just heavily restricted trade between lockdowns.

She said: “Hotels have been housing key workers, NHS staff and vulnerable people through the peaks of the pandemic. They have been helping quarantine arrivals to the UK and they have been operating successfully and securely. They already have their tried and tested systems in place to keep guests and staff safe. Pushing back the reopening of hotels to late May makes little sense.”

“The Prime Minister says that the reopening schedule is driven by data, yet all the data points to hospitality being relatively safe and linked to only a tiny number of cases. Vaccinations and the fall in infection rates has de-risked our reopening even further. Over the past year, the Government has repeatedly miscalculated the risks posed by hospitality,” she continued.

“This delay in reopening will make the job of survival all the more difficult for businesses only just clinging onto existence. It is much more than just an inconvenience for many employers in our sector, it is another delay that they cannot afford and, for too many, will not be able to survive.”

She has called for a generous compensation package that goes beyond what was offered in January, with a commitment to eliminate new costs that are due to hit, such as HMRC tax bills and loan repayments. An extension of the VAT cut and business rates holiday should be confirmed along with a targeted extension of the furlough scheme.

“We must also have an extension of the rent moratorium, with loan repayments and HMRC debt delayed in order to give businesses some breathing room from the ruinous mountain of debt that has built up for too many. Asking businesses to start paying this money back when they are not even open could be terminal for many.” She welcomed a specific review into international travel can return, saying this will be critical to the recovery of the hospitality sector.

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