Industry leaders have welcomed the government’s announcement that hotels, pubs, restaurants and other hospitality businesses can reopen from July 4.
Joss Croft, chief executive of inbound travel association UKinbound, said: “Today’s announcement will come as a huge relief to businesses across the tourism and hospitality industry, who have earned very little revenue since the beginning of March.”
The reopening of sector will come as social distancing rules are relaxed from two metres to ‘one metre plus’.
Croft said: “Reducing social distancing from two metres to one will ensure that many more businesses will be able to viably reopen at the start of next month.”
He added: “We’re pleased the government has also listened to industry and is on the verge of agreeing ‘air corridors’ with a number of countries – a step that signals the UK’s inbound industry is keen to welcome international tourists again.”
However, Croft said: “Government needs to recognise that while some businesses will hopefully be able to re-coup a small proportion of their losses over the much shorter summer season, many businesses, especially those that rely wholly or mostly on inbound tourism, will have gone through the equivalent of ‘three winters’ and will need further financial support if they are to survive.”
UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls expressed relief at the announcement, saying: “Having confirmation of the reopening date is a real boon and affords businesses some time to make the necessary preparations.
“We’re still awaiting the publication of guidance and have been working hard to make sure businesses are fully equipped with our own reopening guidelines, but clarity around the date is very helpful.”
Nicholls added: “Reducing the minimum distance will be a huge help. The two-metre rule would have capped capacity for most venues at around 30%.
“Reduction to one-metre should see most venues able to trade at around 70% of capacity.”
“Businesses will endeavour to assist with measures that allow them to reopen and to support public health objectives.
“Swift clarification will be needed to ensure venues can implement a workable track and trace system by July 4, with minimal logistical or data challenges.”
However, Nicholls said: “While many venues will endeavour to reopen on July 4, capacities will be constrained by social distancing and some may be unable to trade viably at all, so continued government support will remain crucial.
“Many businesses have been closed for months with no revenue and are now facing substantial rent and PAYE bills.”
She warned: “We need financial help from the government, otherwise some businesses are going to go under right at the point at which they are allowed to open once again.”
An Abta spokesperson said: “The measures announced today to ease lockdown further in England and allow people to stay overnight in self-contained accommodation, and take domestic holidays from 4 July, is a step in the right direction on the road to restarting travel in earnest.
“With travel restrictions in place for the last few months, there is latent demand to travel with people wanting to visit close family and friends and have something to look forward to.”
“However, the travel sector remains in a perilous state, with redundancies announced each week, and more needs to be done to help the whole sector recover.”
They added: “We need a more comprehensive roadmap as soon as possible that includes timeframes for relaxing international travel restrictions too so businesses and customers can plan ahead. The process of sending people on holiday is not like turning on a tap; as much advance notice as possible from the government is required for travel companies to restart operations.”
Lex Butler, chair of the hospitality and events association the HBAA, said: “Covid-19 and lockdown have been a hammer blow to business events, meetings and accommodation agencies, venues and suppliers.
“By reducing social distancing to one metre plus and providing guidelines, the government has wrapped the hammer in plastic.
“The introduction of one-metre-plus social distancing makes meetings and events just about viable.”
However, Butler said: “After chasing these guidelines for many weeks, the industry has less than two weeks to put these requirements in place.”
He warned: “Many thousands of people in the business events, accommodation and meetings industry will be made redundant in the coming days, weeks and months.
“The industry still needs extra financial support – extension of the furlough scheme, continuing business rates relief, commercial rent relief, a delay in payment of Corporation Tax and a reduction in VAT on accommodation and meetings packages – until spring 2021 to keep businesses alive.”
The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) called for greater clarity “so Brits can travel abroad again”.
WTTC president and chief executive Gloria Guevara said: “The UK’s travel and tourism sector will welcome the UK government’s announcement on the re-opening of hotels, pubs, restaurants and attractions.
“But while this may help domestic travel and tourism to recover, it does nothing to bring greater clarity for when travellers and holidaymakers can start venturing abroad or when international travellers can arrive into the UK without having to be quarantined for 14 days.”
“The wider travel and tourism sector desperately needs a clear timeline for when overseas travel can resume.”
Accor’s chief operating officer for North Europe, Thomas Dubaere, also welcomed the announcement. He said: “Our focus throughout this pandemic has been supporting our staff and guests and it is vital that as measures are relaxed, we all continue to play our role in maintaining vigilance.
“It will clearly take time to return to normal, but each extra step we can take along the way will help the industry rebuild and do what it does best for society and the economy, which is to provide great experiences and help bring people together.”
Hilton’s managing director for the UK and Ireland, Stephen Cassidy, said: “We are looking forward to opening our hotels and welcoming back guests”, adding: “We know that expectations will be different, with cleanliness and hygiene more important than ever.”
The UK Short Term Accommodation Association said it was “delighted” with the announcement.
Chair Merilee Karr said: “We have done a lot of work behind the scenes on the logistics for a safe reopening that will protect holiday guests and communities and should help reignite hospitality companies’ revenues to give a much-needed injection into local economies who depend on tourism.
“We have worked with government departments, industry bodies and associations across the UK to develop new, robust safety and cleaning protocols that should give consumers the confidence to book their holiday accommodation and travel safely to any property that meets them. Short-term rentals which adhere to these protocols offer a comparatively low-risk option for people looking to book a holiday in the current environment.”
Which? Travel editor Rory Boland said: “This is good news for people hoping to take a holiday in England this summer – but many holidaymakers are still struggling to get refunds for cancelled hotel bookings and trust in the travel industry has fallen to record low levels, so some people may be reluctant to make new bookings.
“The government must take urgent action to end confusion around travel advice and refunds, and do more to support the industry to ensure that firms struggling due to coronavirus are in a position to fulfil their obligations to customers.”
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