Coronavirus: Let us open now, hotels demand

The hospitality sector hopes to get the green light back in early July.

However, no fixed date has yet been set and thousands of workers have either lost their jobs or are still on leave.

The AA has now set up an "Covid Confident" accreditation system to strengthen public confidence in domestic tourism and to simplify measures.

However, hotel owners say that whatever steps they take to prepare for the reopening will be in vain unless the ministers can clarify them.

The Mount Hotel in Wolverhampton has introduced a new cleaning system

The Mount Hotel Country Manor in Tettenhall reduced its workforce from almost 100 to just five after it had to be closed. The remaining people have spent their time ensuring that measures are taken to ensure guest safety when they can open their doors.

Director Scott Bernard said: “To attract customers, we have to show that we are a really safe place to stay. We have installed a thermal CCTV system that allows the camera to record the temperatures of 30 people as they walk through the door. "

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He said that all guests must use the foot-operated hand cleaning dispenser upon arrival and a new delivery point will be created to ensure that all delivered goods are disinfected before entering the building.

Although it is not clear when the restaurant may be reopened, glass panels have been installed between the tables to ensure public security.

Mr. Bernard said it was hoped that the beer garden could be reopened and the hotel had personal beer pumps installed at its tables outside so guests could draw their own pints.

The hotel has also installed two new high temperature washing machines. All employees are additionally trained and equipped with protective clothing. The rooms are cleaned and sealed before guests arrive.

At the Mount Hotel in Wolverhampton, MD Scott Barnard tests the temperature test software at the reception with General Manager Neil Wyatt

Mr. Bernard said: "We have put antibacterial and antiviral packaging on all door handles and light switches, and all bedrooms have seals after cleaning."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has indicated July 4 as the date for the reopening. The two-meter rule on social distancing is also checked.

But the hospitality sector cannot plan without certainty.

Macdonald hotel chain, which announced last week that 1,800 employees were at risk of being laid off, said it had "no choice."

British Hospitality Manager Kate Nicholls said: “We have to confirm the reopening date immediately.

They say they are ready to welcome guests again, but there is no idea when check-in will begin

Few industries in the West Midlands have grown as quickly as the hotel and hospitality industry in the past few decades, and few have been affected by the Corona virus lock.

While the workers in factories, shops, offices and construction sites are gradually returning to work, the hotel trade remains blocked.

Hotels are big business in the UK. According to the British trade organization Hospitality, the leisure and tourism sector accounts for five percent of UK GDP and ten percent of employment.

It is also one of the worst hit by the ban.

With no set date for reopening, hotels have no choice but to assume that they may be able to open early next month and take security measures.

Some hotels, like the Mercure in Telford, have been able to stay open by accommodating key workers who need to stay away from home to prevent the spread of the disease.

Others, like Prince Rupert in Shrewsbury, have opened their doors to the homeless. But for the majority, it was just a case of closing the shop until the crisis was over.

The Mount Hotel in Wolverhampton has introduced a "Pour Your Own Pint" system at outdoor tables to reduce contact between employees and customers

Scott Bernard, general manager of the Mount Hotel Country Manor Hotel in Tettenhall, Wolverhampton, said it was a difficult time for retailers.

"It's an incredibly difficult time for our industry and we've had an economic quarter with no income behind us," he says.

The mount made its first tentative steps toward reopening by introducing a takeaway service that started with a traditional roast, followed by afternoon teas that people can collect Monday through Friday.

Preparations are also underway for reopening next month.

"We will open on July 4th if we are not told that we cannot," says Bernard, adding that the hotel already has many firm bookings.

Even if the hospitality business is back in business, concerns have been raised that many of the government's measures mean that the industry can hardly continue where it left off.

The Wrekin MP, Mark Pritchard, has raised concerns in the House of Commons that the 14-day quarantine period imposed on almost anyone who comes to this country from abroad will have a significant impact on tourism in the region.

His colleague in North Shropshire, Owen Paterson, says it is important that the two-meter rule on social distance is reduced to one meter.

"The entire hotel industry depends on good summer trading, and we really need to get it going again," he says.

Preparations for the Mount Hotel in Wolverhampton are underway

“I was at a Shropshire Hospitality meeting a few weeks ago and they told me that they can work with the current two meter rule at 30 percent of normal capacity, but if that is reduced to one meter they can do it 70 percent. "

The pressure is felt across the industry.

The All-Party Hospitality and Tourism Group reports that only 11 percent of the companies in this sector were able to work normally during the closure. It adds that international tourist arrivals are expected to decrease by 59 percent over the course of the year.

Group chairman Steve Double MP said: “The UK hospitality and tourism sector has been destroyed by the Covid 19 crisis, and this report highlights the scale of the damage done to businesses.

Kelly Roberts and Michael Kuc at the Mercure Telford Center Hotel

"These are two of the most important parts of our economy, and our research has shown how important it is to support these important sectors both in the immediate and long term." Gordon Fraser, vice chairman of the Macdonald hotel chain, announced last week that 1,800 of the company's 2,200 employees are at risk of being laid off.

"We really hoped to avoid this very undesirable move, but with no realistic prospect of returning to normal trading any time soon, we simply had no choice," said Fraser.

"The government's vacation program has helped to some extent, but our essential operating costs, insurance, and some wages still have to be paid, which means that our monthly spending is still £ 2 million while we are forced to remain closed. "

UK Hospitality is asking the government to confirm a re-opening date for the hospitality industry so companies can prepare to return to trade. Managing Director Kate Nicholls says: “We need confirmation of the reopening date for the hospitality industry without further delay.


"Companies need time to prepare, and the first step to getting them the much-needed clarity is to confirm when they can open their doors again."

She says this is particularly important for hotels and tourism, where 60 percent of bookings are made more than two weeks in advance.

"If the sector is to reopen on July 4th, we only have two weeks, so time is of the essence."

Ms Nicholls said the latest GDP figures, where hospitality and tourism make up a quarter of the total decline, illustrate the importance of the sector.

"The country can hardly afford to delay the return to trade," she says.

"If the reopening is to be a success, in addition to Covid's safe guidelines for the sector, we need to have a reopening date confirmation that the government supports to help tourism and hospitality."

It supports calls from the all-party faction to cut tourism VAT and passenger tax, extend the rental moratorium and create an autumn holiday.

Mr. Double says that there is no doubt that the industry is facing a challenging future, but that if it gets the right help, it can recover.

"The road to recovery will be difficult," he says.

He adds, "There is every reason to believe that businesses can recover if they get the right support from Westminster and decentralized governments."

Management of the Mount Hotel in Wolverhampton and the Mercure in Telford seems confident that business will recover as soon as restrictions are eased.

Michael Kuc, General Manager at Mercure, believes that trade will return, even if it takes a while for people to regain confidence.

"It is up to us to assure people that they are safe here," he says.

"I think if people can't go abroad, the stay will be popular and a lot of people will want to visit us."

It gave us the opportunity to renovate

Things couldn't have been better for the Mount Hotel Country Manor in Tettenhall, Wolverhampton, earlier this year.

With an abundance of awards and a 90 percent load, The Mount rode on the crest and was looking forward to a busy summer.

Then the lock came.

"The government said all hotel operations had to close, and that was it," says director Scott Bernard.

“When we closed the hotel, it was heartbreaking. But now we're trying to focus on the positive that it gives us the opportunity to renovate the hotel and do all the tasks that make it difficult when you have guests. "

While some hotels could stay open by housing key workers or homeless people, the closure meant exactly that for The Mount. An empty building except for a handful of employees who keep the space tidy.

"We have our employees on leave, we have some employees who clean and maintain the hotel," he says. "Before we closed, we had 98 employees in the hotel, now it's about four or five."

Mr. Bernard, who runs the hotel with his father Roy, who owns the company, and his brother Brett, says it was a little scary at first to see the building without guests, but the team quickly focused on making sure it was is ready when it opens again next month.

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