The hospitality industry faces an unprecedented challenge as new government restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus threaten the survival of many businesses. Prime Minister Boris Johnson's call for social distancing has hit the sector hard, prompting concerns from industry leaders and calls for urgent government intervention.
The Dire Consequences
Kate Nicholls, CEO of Hospitality UK, warns that the restrictions are "catastrophic for businesses and jobs," predicting thousands of closures and hundreds of thousands of job losses. The sudden drop in visits over the past weeks has left many businesses on the brink, with the latest advice leaving the industry in a state of uncertainty, lacking insurance recourse.
Government Response and Industry Pleas
Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to unveil a rescue package, building on the £7 billion Budget allocation. However, industry leaders like Carolyn Fairbairn from the CBI stress the need for swift, coordinated interventions. The chief executive of Carluccio's, Mark Jones, echoes the urgency, stating that without state aid, the restaurant chain is days away from widespread closures.
Financial Strain and Lack of Insurance Cover
The government's advice to avoid social venues, without mandating closures, has left businesses without financial protection. Most businesses lack insurance coverage for coronavirus-related losses, according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI). Standard business interruption cover typically excludes forced closure by authorities, leaving many establishments without a safety net.
Impact on Other Businesses
Beyond the hospitality sector, companies like Compass Group are already feeling the impact of containment measures. Compass Group warns of lower-than-expected operating profit and anticipates a revenue loss of up to 30% across its business.
Devolved Government Measures
While the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland introduce measures to support businesses, concerns persist in the rest of the UK. The industry grapples with the decision to close or remain open, unsure of the financial implications.
Mixed Messages and Industry Response
The lack of a government-mandated shutdown, coupled with recommendations to avoid social spaces, creates confusion. UK Hospitality's Kate Nicholls describes it as a potentially catastrophic state of limbo. Industry sources fear that mixed messages could compromise insurance claims, emphasizing the need for a clear financial lifeline.
Inadequacy of Support Measures
Despite the government's support package, including tax relief and business rate holidays, industry groups argue that these measures are insufficient for the current emergency. The sector calls for more comprehensive financial support to weather the storm.
As the hospitality industry grapples with unprecedented challenges, swift and substantial government intervention is crucial. The current situation demands not only financial support but also clear communication to prevent further confusion and potential closures. The road ahead is uncertain, and the fate of many businesses hangs in the balance.