Hoteliers in Bristol say they are heartbroken at news that the city is being placed in Tier 3 at the end of the current Coronavirus lockdown.
The Bristol Hotels Association (BHA), which represents around 40 businesses in and around the city, say this decision could have a catastrophic impact on their businesses.
Hotels had been hoping they would be able to re-open their doors again from December 2 but the Tier 3 decision means they must remain closed aside from some very limited exceptions.
The BHA says it is bitterly disappointed by the result and is calling on the Government to pledge additional support to help secure the survival of their businesses.
Raphael Herzog, chair of the BHA, said: “We appreciate the support the Government has provided so far, especially the extended furlough scheme and a temporary drop in VAT, but has a wish-list of what it would like to see in order to help the industry recover in 2021.
“Many Bristol hotels have been operating at a loss since April, yet many of the have invested thousands of pounds in making our premises safe for staff and guests, yet we were one of the first sectors to be shut down.
“Due to all the investment and safe practices we have introduced, it is safer to visit a hotel than go to a large grocery store.
“We had been hoping we would be able to open again in December and start on the road to recovery.
“Now, we’re not likely to be able to begin that process until 2021, so we would urge the government to help kick-start this 2021 recovery by giving us some extra support.”
Prior to the Tier 3 decision, Mr Herzog had written to West of England Mayor Tim Bowles and Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees, as well as speaking to Local MPs, outlining a wish-list for 2021 to help the hospitality sector.
Now, there is an even greater need to fulfil that wish list.
Mr Herzog said: “We would urge the Government to help kick-start the 2021 recovery by maintaining the reduced VAT rate, which was introduced in July, to the whole of 2021, and to also introduce a business rates holiday for 2021/22.
“Our businesses have already been closed for so much of the year.
“September to December are historically very strong months for hotels, and revenue generated in this period offsets the lower levels of business we traditionally experience in January and February.
“However, because of the pandemic and the lockdown, this has not been able to happen this year, which is why we desperately need more support.
“That need is even more desperate for us because, while some hotels will be able to start generating revenue again in December, we will not.
“We want to see furlough for all staff, even those working in closed hotels. Businesses have to pay 100% for those staffing – operating the phone lines and so on – and providing security for hotels yet the businesses have not been able to trade and therefore have no revenue.
“We need a more sustainable round of grants, too. In France, businesses can get a grant of 20 percent of their turnover if they are forced to close their businesses, and this is in addition to the furlough.
“We also want to see extensive Government promotion of tourism and hospitality and more clarity on who owns the responsibility for the hospitality industry at a ministerial level.
“At present this is shared by Ministers in the Departments for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, and Digital, Culture, Media & Sport.“As the third biggest employer in the UK the hospital sector, which contributes more than £73bn to the UK economy, should have a dedicated minister, a dedicated voice.”
Occupancy levels for October 2020 in BHA hotels was around 45% – compared to 85% in October 2019. In September 2020, the rate was 60% compared to 87% in 2019. In July 2020, the rate was just 31%, compared to 88% in 2019.
Bristol being placed into Tier 3 ruins any chances of hotels being able to boost their business before the end of the year.
Mr Herzog added: “I would urge everyone to abide by all the Covid-19 restrictions, so that hopefully Bristol’s situation can be reviewed and we can come out of Tier 3 at the earliest opportunity.
“I would call on everyone in the UK to seriously considering taking their next holidays or short breaks in this country, to go to their local hotels, restaurants and pubs. We need support from the public to help us recover from this crisis as soon as possible.”