Hospitality plays a key role in the makeup of the Marble Arch and Edgware Road area of London’s West End. The area is home to over 100 local restaurants, cafés, pubs and bars while hotel accommodation ranges from luxury five-star and busy four-star hotels to boutique townhouses and budget hostels offering more than 2,700 rooms combined.
These hotels bring hundreds of thousands of visitors to the area each year and are among some of the biggest employers in the district.
Of course, as with many industries the coronavirus is having a significant impact on the hospitality and restaurant industry.
Hotels in the Marble Arch BID area, as well as the West End, have seen occupancy go down from 80-90% to just 10-20% at the beginning of the March-May period, while forward bookings from all other long-haul regions to London are between -10% and -20% year-on-year.
Footfall has also been falling in the area and we expect it to fall even further given the announcement of a UK lockdown. To further add to fears the World Travel & Tourism Council has warned that international travel could fall by 25% this year, putting 50 million jobs at risk.
Emergency packages announced by the chancellor to support the hospitality industry have helped to ease some fears and have strongly responded to the main concerns that were expressed to the government.
It’s clear that the sector is facing unprecedented challenges.
However, there are also practical measures for supporting these businesses that can be implemented during these uncertain times, and it’s often about encouraging collaboration and communication as well as implementing important practical measures.
Marble Arch London BID, for example, is working closely with businesses in the area to ensure they have the resources and advice needed in order to navigate the issues caused by the coronavirus.
Our team played a key role, alongside major national trade bodies and campaigners to press the government on adopting these new measures to support businesses of all sizes during these unpredictable times.
To ensure we continue to support the hospitality industry, as well as other businesses in the area, we will continue to deliver much-needed services such as the hotels and venues group. This group brings together operations and marketing managers from hotels and venues across the area to share insights on current challenges, including the coronavirus.
This means that hotels ranging from the major brands in the area, such as The Hilton and Marriott, can support and share their experiences with the smaller hotels in the area. This support can range from how to provide medical advice to guests and staff to dealing with lower visitor numbers. The group is a prime example of how business improvement districts can play a vital role in supporting businesses through tough times.
As well as the hotels and venues groups, we are also continually updating our website and sending regular email updates to businesses to let them know about the latest government policies and will be launching webinars shortly that will help both employers and employees understand their rights during these difficult times.
Another major initiative we are working on allows us to support both hospitality businesses and the local community as we are diverting supply chains and moving perishable food from hotels to local hostels, care homes and the local food bank. We are also helping businesses to repurpose themselves and, thanks to the relaxation of planning conditions, hotel restaurants can offer ‘no contact’ deliveries of meals to the self-isolating community.
Our role at Marble Arch BID is central to getting this message out to the surrounding community and helping these hospitality businesses reach a potentially new customer base, which once the crisis passes will help them on the road to recovery.
As well as these initiatives we are working closely with the London Growth Hub and providing businesses with the essential resources to help them manage and mitigate their exposure to the impact of the Coronavirus.
So at a time when the government, councils and trade bodies are inundated with enquiries ranging from local businesses to the general public, many hospitality businesses need a support network to turn to and this is exactly what Marble Arch London BID, and many other BIDs across the UK, can provide and will continue to provide during this public health crisis.
By Kay Buxton, chief executive of Marble Arch London BID