That’s the view of the British Hospitality Association (BHA), which says the effects of on-going flooding and winter storms are ‘potentially catestrophic’ for the UK hospitality industry.
“The ripple effect of these storms is hitting other businesses as tourists are being put off visiting parts of the UK because of the severe weather,” said the BHA’s chief executive Ufi Ibrahim. “We have to act now to plan for the future and we are keen to ensure that our industry has learned the lessons from the past and is helped by the Government to quickly set a path to recovery.
“The British Hospitality Association today asks the Government urgently to help our industry in two ways: by setting up a marketing budget to attract tourists back, and by giving affected businesses a lifeline by offering a moratorium on VAT, PAYE and corporation tax payments.”
For some, the financial damage caused by the storms is already clear to see. On Friday evening, 32 Valentine's Day diners had to be rescued from the Marine Restaurant in Milford on Sea after it was hit by flood water and shingle, which smashed the windows.
The appalling conditions which have ravaged parts of the south have not slowed up, with heavy rain on Friday and Saturday. And concerns are dually growing about the potential future impact on hospitality and tourism businesses across the country.
Hospitality businesses in the west, south and south west have been the worst affected, with many still trying to recover from loss of business over the Christmas period.
The scale of the potential economic outlay is illustrated by the fact that the floods which struck large parts of England and Northern Ireland in 2007 cost business £740m.
But its not just the physical effects of the weather that will have a negative impact on businesses. Property experts Colliers International believe the 24-hour media coverage in Somerset and Gloucestershire could do more harm to the South West’s recovering hospitality sector than the flooding itself, with reduced footfall across the entire region.
“There is certainly concern among publicans and hoteliers that the non-stop coverage we are seeing is having an effect well beyond the flood impacted areas," said Colliers' hotels director Simon Wells. “Listening to a number of our clients over the past few weeks, they have all told me that the high levels of media coverage about the flooding on the Somerset Levels is affecting their trade, even if they operate in entirely different areas.
"Without seeking to diminish the impact or effect of the flooding, the fact is it is still confined to a relatively small area of the South West. We are hearing lots of stories of people phoning in advance to see whether they can still get to the hotel that they have booked and the reply in most circumstances is a resounding yes.”
Last week, the Prime Minister David Cameron did offer special treatment to businesses hit by the floods; affected hotels, restaurants and pubs will be able to claim 100 per cent tax relief on business rates for three months defer their tax payments.
And, after floods and gales swept across the country in December, NatWest and RBS launched a £250m interest-free loan fund to help out hospitality businesses who have been affected by the recent floods and strong winds.
The Tourism Industry Emergency Response Group, which comprises key tourism industry organisations from across the UK, met with the Government yesterday afternoon (13 February) to discuss proposals to support economic recovery in the affected areas over the coming months.
'Open for Business'
The Tourism Boards are actively promoting that the UK is ‘open for business as usual’, and have released the following statement: “As we approach the February half term, tourism businesses are working as usual to welcome families and give them a great holiday experience. Across Britain it is business as usual.
“Recent flooding has been largely localised and the vast majority of the country is still open for visitors. Scotland has been unaffected, Wales and Cornwall and Devon have had some coastal flooding which has now cleared.
“London is experiencing record visitor numbers and, for the first time in history, is on course to welcome over 16 million overseas visitors in one year. We encourage tourists to come to the capital and enjoy its great wonders, even if the forecast is rain."
As BigHospitality reported earlier this week, the floods failed to dampen sales across the nation's restaurant and pub groups last month, according to the Coffer Peach Tracker which found they actually rose 7.2 per cent compared to the same period last year. Read more here.