UKHospitality has claimed that the sector is “devastated” by the late reopening date for hospitality, adding that 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.
The news follows the recently announced plans by the government to reopen certain industries and ease lockdown restrictions, which will start 8 March with schools.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive, UKH, revealed that from the start of November 2020, the sector will have been closed for nearly 200 days, with just a couple of weeks of “heavily restricted trading” in December.
She reiterated that vaccinations and the fall in infection rates has “de-risked” reopening even further, adding that this delay in reopening will make survival “all the more difficult for businesses” in the industry.
When speaking about hotels, Nicholls 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.”
She emphasised, the sector needs a “generous compensation package” that goes beyond what was offered in January if it expects businesses to survive, adding that businesses will also need a commitment by the government to “eliminate new costs” that are due to hit, such as HMRC tax bills and loan repayments.
Nicholls has also called for an extension of the VAT cut and business rates holiday with a “targeted extension” of the furlough scheme.
She said: “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.”