Has enough been done to save the hospitality sector?

Has enough been done to save the hospitality sector?

Whether you work in the industry or worry for the future of your favourite establishments, there’s no doubt the hospitality sector is among the hardest hit by the pandemic. The UK government has already taken drastic steps to protect it – but will they prove to be enough?

The impacts of the outbreak

When the UK lockdown was announced in mid-March, businesses across many industries were forced to temporarily close, send workers home or rethink their propositions. Sales across the hospitality sector took an instant hit. Yet while some have been able to adapt and even thrive, parts of the industry look to remain closed for the foreseeable future.

And even with phased reopenings and new measures in place elsewhere, it’s natural for customers to feel reluctant to return while the threat of the virus remains. It’s a sector that largely thrives on customers feeling safe, sociable and happy to spend.

The impact of the health crisis has been so severe that over half of small business owners in the UK hospitality sector fear their venues will be forced to permanently close as a result.

What’s already been done to save the hospitality sector?

Thankfully, the government appears to have recognised the threats the sector faces. After a nervous first few weeks with no news of a rescue plan, the furlough scheme allowed businesses to keep their staff on the books while their regular income was disrupted.

Other measures have followed, with the unprecedented Eat Out to Help Out scheme encouraging the public to dine out at a discounted price. Though it may be too soon to judge its overall effectiveness, we enjoyed over 100m subsidised meals throughout the month of August.

And though many arts organisations still feel especially vulnerable, a £1.57 billion support package was announced in July to protect the future of Britain’s cultural institutions and heritage sites.

Which businesses are ready to bounce back?

Even with these measures in place however, the success of the sector still arguably relies on a return to life as something-like-normal.

Some are naturally in a stronger position than others, with a boom in staycation bookings giving domestic accommodation providers a boost while international travel is less appealing. From hidden lodges in the Scottish Highlands to serviced apartments in Liverpool, many holidaymakers are rediscovering what the UK has to offer by staying closer to home.

The prospects aren’t as rosy for performance arts though, with tours and events postponed until next year and packed crowds still something of a distant dream. Nightclubs also face challenges to reopen – especially given their link to recent spikes across Spain.        

An uncertain future

Even those who have been able to get back to work face an uncertain future. The prospect of isolated outbreaks and local lockdowns mean many businesses could be forced to close again at short notice. Growing fears over a second wave meanwhile mean nothing can be taken for granted.

In reality it may be years before we learn the full impact of Covid-19 on the hospitality sector. In the meantime, everyone is crossing their fingers.