Hospitality looks for creative solutions as pandemic restrictions lifted
Hospitality has taken a pounding during the pandemic and while the country has now virtually fully opened, with the lifting of all restrictions, the industry still needs to be creative about the future.
According to trade body UKHospitality, two years on from the start of the pandemic, the sector has racked up £114.8bn sales lost versus what was expected for 2020/21.
With a full 24-months of data available, hospitality, which in normal times generates up to £140bn-a-year, has lost 43 per cent and 45 full weeks of sales since March 2020 and faces a further blow when the current VAT level of 12.5 per cent reverts to 20 per cent in April.
Growth in the final quarter
However, the industry has bounced back and the latest edition of the UKHospitality and CGA Quarterly Tracker reveals the sector enjoyed £17.3bn (121 per cent) final quarter growth in 2021 compared to the same period the year before.
However, that is still down 32.3 per cent in the 12-months to the end of last December versus the 12 months ending December 2019.
During the pandemic restaurants, hotels and other hospitality venues, showed plenty of ingenuity creating outdoor spaces that were warm and welcoming, even as the element closed in.
While there is still uncertainty about the long term with the coronavirus and any new variants, the industry needs to be prepared.
A priority will be to build resilience to address future crises or economic disruptions. More importantly, perhaps, is addressing the labour shortage.
Vacancies 100 per cent higher
According to UKHospitality, latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) labour market statistics show that current vacancies are more than 100 per cent higher than the corresponding pre-Covid period.
This has prompted the trade body to call for a redoubling of efforts from all stakeholders to resource and support the Hospitality Rising campaign to promote careers in the sector.
Chief Executive, Kate Nicholls, said: “Of course the hospitality sector is delighted that Covid restrictions are being lifted, but that brings a new problem: how to service increased customer demand without the staff to do it.
“That’s why we’re backing a proposed £5m cross-sector drive to recruit for those roles.”
Permanent outdoor facilities to stay
In the meantime, many of the safety procedures and protocols implemented to address the pandemic may become standard practice.
This should prove attractive to customers after the pandemic, striking a good balance with the need to create an inviting experience while supporting safety and wellbeing protocols for employees.
Many venues will take significant steps to make permanent the utilisation of outdoor space – building on providing permanent facilities outside such as yurts and marquees for outdoor banquet, dining and convention events.
These won’t just help during a pandemic, but will keep events running in periods of bad weather and allow venues to cater for different types of events such as parties or weddings.
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