The COVID-19 crisis’s full effect on the hospitality industry is still to be revealed. We know some businesses will fold – indeed job losses and hotel groups going into administration began during the lockdown. But, just like that extended burst of summer sunshine we enjoyed, it’s not all gloom.
The boom in the staycation market will see many, hopefully, through to Christmas and beyond. A reduction in restrictions, boom in traveller confidence and tourism would help turn the tide. The opposite scenario, of a COVID spike and further lockdowns is an unbearable thought for most of the sector.
For the housekeeping sector, the combination of the virus and the approaching final Brexit deadline is having another effect. The Office for National Statistics revealed that employment of EU nationals dropped by 284,000 in the second quarter of the year, the deepest slump since the global financial meltdown.
The hospitality industry recorded the biggest drop in employment during the three months, with some 137,000 jobs lost. The World Travel and Tourism Council has predicted that close to three million jobs in the sector will go in the UK, and perhaps 197 million worldwide. The WTTC is also concerned that differing travel restrictions across parts of Europe will deter international travellers who like to land in London and then take in the sights across the continent.
And yet there are more than glimmers of hope as hotel groups open brand new or spectacularly refurbished premises in the face of all this, or even put in plans for expansion throughout the next few years in both resorts and city centres. Housekeeping and other hospitality jobs are being created. A fine example of this is provided by Selina, the hospitality group which caters for the modern nomadic traveller. Its third unique UK property, Selina Brighton, opened in the summer as part of the ‘ultimate staycation’ theme with 31 private rooms, suites and family rooms, and you can see on our front page why we gave it pride of place with that promenade position and views. They plan to open another 19 rooms next year.
Although you might not think it, London is helping to drive the uplift, with event booking platform VenueScanner recording a 267 per cent increase in venue booking requests from April to July. Notably, just two per cent of these enquiries were for meeting rooms, reflecting the ‘work from home’ drive which appears here to stay for many. In fact, nine out of 10 enquiries were from the public seeking to hold private events, whereas more than half were from businesses last year. This is going to be a tough market to rebuild.
Even so, major developments and refurbishments are going ahead not just in the capital, but in cities such as Manchester, Birmingham, Nottingham and York. In Liverpool, The Resident was set to reopen from the end of August after a refurbishment programme including all bedrooms. To mark the event it is offering ‘Nights on Us’ to the city’s ICU nurses who worked through the pandemic. A £25 million project shared by luxury country house hotel Beaverbrook and real estate experts Cadogan is set to see The Beaverbrook Town House open in summer 2021 with 14 luxury suites and a 60-cover Japanese restaurant when two Sloane Street Georgian townhouses are carefully transformed.
We finish on another positive note. The staycation boom and government initiatives helped The Headland hotel in Cornwall to reduce what was expected to be a loss of 80 jobs down to just eight, while actually seeking skilled staff in new roles including a deputy head housekeeper. All job losses are sad, but there is some light at the end of the tunnel. We just need to get there.