By Adam Raphael
On Monday July 29th, the Guide’s website (www.goodhotelguide.com) had its highest number of viewers since its relaunch four years ago. July and August are on course for being our best months ever. This increase in traffic shows that the pent-up demand for staycations is there. That is the good news. The bad news is that some of our selected hotels, inns and B&Bs are under such financial pressure that a few of our some smaller properties, including sadly one or two of the best, are in danger of closing.
Swan House, Hastings, a half-timbered B&B on a quiet cul-de-sac in the Old Town, has been a Guide favourite for many years. Presided over for the past 14 years by the most welcoming of hosts, Brendan McDonagh, it is a historic house that combines style with comfort. Reports from readers this year have been so glowing, not least about the breakfast (kippers, fresh orange juice and smoked salmon), that the Guide’s editorial team decided to award it a César as B&B of the Year.
I wouldn’t normally dream of breaking the news on our César awards, which are embargoed to coincide with publication of the new 2021 edition in the first week of October. But I have just received an email from Brendan saying that he and his partner Lionel Copley have decided to stop trading. Sad news both for us and for the Guide’s readers. So why am I writing about Swan House’s award? I suppose, to be disingenuous, it is in the hope that the news of its well-deserved César and the accompanying national and regional publicity will persuade Brendan and Lionel to keep going. In the meantime, I recommend that you try to reserve a room before the planned closure date at the end of October. If you are successful, you will have a great time.
The extent of the destruction the Covid-19 virus has caused the hospitality industry is shown by the latest figures. Sales across the sector plummeted 87% in the second quarter of the year, equivalent to nearly £30bn in lost revenue, according to the UKHospitality Tracker. It is worth bearing these figures in mind when you are presented with a bill at the end of your stay which does not take into account the cut in VAT from the 20% standard rate to a temporary 5%, announced by the government on July 8th.
Some chain hotels are passing on this cut to their guests, but most of the Guide’s independent hotels and B&Bs cannot afford to do this. They need every penny if they are to survive. It is in the interest of everyone that they do. Hospitality is one of the largest employers in the country, with nearly three million working in it full time or part time. As the pandemic has continued, the thousands of small hotels, B&Bs and inns on which we all depend are facing the toughest of challenges. They don’t have capital, they don’t have reserves; all they have is their willingness to work their butt off and their determination to succeed. The Guide will do all it can to help them.