Tens of thousands of people who work in the hotel and tourism sector in the Bristol region could lose their jobs as a result of the UK’s lockdown, an industry boss has warned.
Raphael Herzog, head of Bristol’s Hoteliers Association and general manager of De Vere Tortworth Court, says the industry needs social distancing to be reduced to one metre in order for hotels to survive.
He also says the ending of the government’s furlough scheme should be staggered depending on when businesses reopen – and extended for the hospitality sector.
“The hotel industry will be the last sector to open in July and when we reopen business won’t be as strong,” he said.
“Why are hotels having to move into flexible furlough straight away when other businesses have reopened in June and had full furlough to start with?
“Hotels should be able to benefit from the full scheme for a further two months and then go into the flexible scheme.”
Mr Herzog managed a team of 150 before the virus outbreak but was forced to furlough the majority of staff when UK hotels closed. There are now only 15 employees working at his hotel.
And the picture for the industry is bleak, he says. Mr Herzog believes some hotels are likely to go bankrupt and mass redundancies are “inevitable”.
He said: “Hotel profit will take three years before it returns to 2019 levels and we are likely to see redundancies around the city of more than 100,000 from the tourism sector.”
When asked if the city region could see some hotels disappear all together, Mr Herzog says the question for hoteliers is whether it is worth reopening at all.
“[Our group of hotels] is only opening six sites out of 18. Will there be enough business? Some people could go bankrupt and the small independent hotels could be at risk.
“Most of the business for hotels in the Bristol region is domestic, but we will see a drop off in demand for meeting and events, tour series and the corporate market from businesses like Boeing, Rolls-Royce and Airbus, which used to fly in domestic and international employees to stay in our hotels.”
The problems facing the sector could be further compounded by the shrinking UK economy, according to Mr Herzog, who says the industry’s future depends on the severity of a UK recession.
De Vere Tortworth Court, which is in Wotton-under-Edge in Gloucestershire, is already putting plans in place to reopen, including a drive-thru digital check in, removing all furniture from the lobby, closing the pool, and sealing bedroom doors with tape after they have been cleaned.
The hotel’s restaurant, which could previously seat 180 people, will only be able to serve 60 when it reopens – and that’s only if one-metre social distancing is allowed.
“We need more guidance as a sector,” Mr Herzog added. “Do staff need to wear masks and PPE? There are so many questions that need answering.
“It’s going to be a huge challenge for our industry moving forward. The credit crunch of 2008 is nothing compared to this.”