What does the easing of lockdown restrictions mean for the hospitality industry and for Derbyshire? Brendan Moffett, the Director of the University of Derby’s Centre for Contemporary Hospitality and Tourism, considers the implications of the government’s vision for the July 4 reopening.
After much speculation the government has now confirmed that the hospitality sector in England, including restaurants, bars and accommodation, can re-open both outdoors and indoors providing they follow new safety guidelines in what is being described as a “Covid-secure way”.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has faced increasing pressure from backbenchers who have said easing the two-metre requirement is key to reopening the hard-pressed hospitality sector.
Reducing the social distance requirement
In his announcement, he introduced new guidance for “one metre plus”. This effectively means staying one metre apart, while observing precautions to reduce the risk of transmission.
This will involve more handwashing, ventilation and indoor table service., No customers will be able to stand at a shared bar and contact between them and staff will be limited.
Customers at pubs and bars may also have to sign guest books, providing their names and contact details so they could be traced if they come into contact with someone who is infected.
Emma McClarkin, Chief Executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, has raised concerns about the significant logistical challenges this could create.
“We do have significant concerns over the collection and storage of personal customer data when visiting the pub”, she said, adding: “We will work with government on how we could help collect data for track and trace purposes.”
Many operators have already started to utilise new technologies to ensure the safety of staff and customers. Apps that allow customers to book a table, order at table or pay bills so customer data can be logged are being rolled out. Based on these innovations, customers will not be asked to wear face-coverings.
Hotels, bed and breakfasts, holiday homes, campsites and caravan parks and boarding houses will also be able to reopen. Campsites will be given guidance on how to be “Covid-secure” in shared areas such as shower, toilet and washing-up facilities.
Industry leaders show cautious optimism
The industry has welcomed the announcement but stressed the need for additional financial support from the government as they start trading again.
UK Hospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said the date confirmation and reduction of two-metre distancing were both helpful for businesses. However, she added that continued government support will remain crucial.
Nicholls said: “Many businesses have been closed for months with no revenue and are now facing substantial rent and PAYE bills. We need financial help from the government, otherwise some of these businesses are going to go under right at the point at which they are allowed to open once again.”
UK Inbound, the trade association focused on visits to the UK from overseas, has been lobbying for the re-opening of ‘air corridors’ with a number of countries to welcome international tourists again
Joss Croft, UKinbound CEO, commented that it was a “huge relief” for pubs, restaurants, hotels and attractions to be given an official reopening date, having earned “very little revenue” since the beginning of March.
A welcome boost for Derbyshire and the Peak District
The impact upon our own region is of vital importance. We have in our own county the most visited national park in the country, which has been bereft of the millions of visitors who don’t just enjoy the scenery, but provide a lifeline for hundreds of local businesses in Derbyshire, as well as our neighbouring local authority areas of Staffordshire, Cheshire, Greater Manchester and South Yorkshire.
I wholeheartedly endorse the reaction of Jo Dilley, Managing Director of Marketing Peak District and Derbyshire, that “we can’t wait for people to start visiting and enjoying our wonderful destination once more.”
But I also support her note of caution that reminds us that: “Public health will remain the top priority and we’re committed to supporting the tourism industry to welcome visitors back in a safe and responsible way.”
It will be interesting to see the industry standards emerging from this development for a safe reopening. Already though, there is a newfound optimism that the heartbeat of our local economy is growing stronger with every small step we take towards the return of something akin to normality.