Time to take stock

By Adam Raphael
So where are we? The short, unsatisfactory answer is inching towards normality. Hotels will probably be welcoming their first paying customers next month. Three- quarters of hospitality businesses say they are ready to open by July 4th. But the government has yet to publish the details on how they will be allowed to operate. It is a worrying time for hoteliers. One wrote to us last week: ‘I am feeling more and more anxious/stressed about re-opening/lack of guidance, etc.’

The most serious problem is that ministers appear unwilling to relax the two-metre social distancing rule following advice from their scientific advisers that it is needed to reduce transmission rates of the virus. A recent study published by the Lancet concluded that a two-metre distance is twice as effective as one-metre in preventing virus transmission. The Prime Minister hinted in his appearance before the parliamentary liaison committee that the scientists would be asked to think again. If the two-metre rule is enforced, it will cause serious problems. Some hotels may not be able to open; those that do will have to take on costly and extraordinary measures.

Hoteliers, of course, realise that unless they can show potential guests that they are going the extra mile on safety, they will not inspire confidence, let alone trade. The Eastbury Hotel in Sherbourne, Dorset, one of the Guide’s selected hotels, recently emailed visitors with 850 words of their safety plans. The many precautions on offer include remote check-in and check-out, sanitised room keys, anti-bacterial soaps and sanitisers in all bedrooms, extended breakfast and dinner times, room service, limitations on numbers in the bar, restaurant and gardens, and minimum two-metre distances between tables. It has also advised its guests to avoid using public transport to get to the hotel; the great majority (80%) already arrive by car.

Will guests come? There are encouraging signs that they will. In the past five years, holidays in this country have increased by 14% according to VisitBritain. That trend is certain to accelerate. Even if the government has second thoughts about its quarantine measures, foreign travel is going to become less attractive and more expensive.

The Guide is doing its bit by publishing MEDIA ARTICLES about its selected hotels in a wide variety of national and regional papers, magazines, and specialist websites. The fact that tabloid and broadsheet newspapers, which live and die by their readers, want to print our expert reviews is the best proof that there is a pent-up demand for hotel stays in this country. It also reflects the respect that they have for the Guide’s independence, established over nearly half a century.

The Guide will be printing its new edition this Autumn, as normal. Life may be tough now but we are confident about our future, and the future of our outstanding hotels, B&Bs, inns, restaurants-with-rooms that make this country a superb holiday destination.

Lastly, I rarely read, let alone quote with approval the thoughts of Luke Johnson a successful entrepreneur, who has made a lot of money from various catering businesses. But I think he is right to point out: ‘Humans are social creatures. We will adjust to Covid-19 over time and the overly fearful attitude of many will dissipate. As a society and an economy, we need to regain our confidence. To suddenly reject thousands of previously viable businesses and thereby see the destruction of perhaps hundreds of thousands of livelihoods, is tragic and unnecessary.’