By Kunal Sawhney, CEO of Kalkine (www.kalkine.co.uk)
The hotel and broader hospitality sector have been one of the biggest generators of employment in the United Kingdom in recent years. By analysing its reach and potential, it can come up as one of the critical sectors which can aid in the UK’s economic recovery from its coronavirus lows. Estimates suggest the UK’s gross domestic product (GDP) is predicted to contract by 4 per cent in the first quarter of 2021.
The hospitality sector is among the hardest-hit sectors during the lockdown.To aid the sector, Chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak had announced a one-off grant worth up to GBP 9,000 (USD 12,224) which was earmarked for the UK retail, hospitality and leisure sectors, and an additional GBP 594 million discretionary fund for other businesses in January.
TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS AND DOMESTIC BOOM
Experts feel the industry is poised to witness a sharp increase in domestic bookings and inquiries owing to new and complicated international travel restrictions, such as mandatory quarantine in hotels, negative Covid-19 tests and Passenger Locator Forms.These new norms have deterred British holidayers from travelling to other countries, with many opting for UK destinations this summer.
Online booking websites have reported a sharp spike in inquiries high- lighting this trend. Independent Cottages, a website advertising over 1,800 accommodations, said their booking inquiries for English proper- ties had shot up by a staggering 300 per cent from the first lockdown in the previous year.
Similarly, another holiday accommodation website Holiday Cottages confirmed their bookings had increased by 39 per cent from the previous year and were up by 98 per cent for the summer holidays period. Inquiries for camping and self-catering accommodations have gathered traction during this period.
A survey conducted by hotel chain The Best Western had seen a steady rise in staycation holidays due to the new global travel restrictions.The survey found 90 per cent of its 6,000 participants opting for staycation holidays predominantly due to safety concerns.
Pent-up demand is high, but due to rollover of previous bookings it has restricted availability of new booking requests. Moreover, as confidence builds on the back of the mass vaccination programme and hopefully the national lockdown restrictions will be relaxed by the end of this first quarter or second quarter just in time for summer holidays, demand will see a more pointed spike.
CHANCES OF REVIVAL
The government will need to support the green shoots in the industry to capitalize on this upswing and bring broader benefits to the overall economy. Industry experts recommend further support in the form of extending the moratorium on business rates by another year, maintaining lending banks stay on banking covenants up to March next year.
They further advocate extending employee furlough scheme beyond the previous deadline of April. Moreover, resuming operations in lower- risk tiers once the federal lockdown restrictions are eased will help the sector tide over this period until demand is unleashed.