The body, which represents 700 businesses, has written to the Prime Minister highlighting the impact of COVID-19 already being felt by businesses around the country and stating that hospitality businesses need immediate and wide-ranging support to deal with the threat of the Coronavirus.
Hotel occupancy has fallen 15% while eating and drinking out has declined by 7% as a result of the Coronavirus, according to UKHospitality, which has also warned that forward bookings across hotels, restaurants, pubs and bars have fallen by up to 50%.
In the letter to Boris Johnson, the body calls on the Government to implement urgent measures that include a moratorium on business rates for a minimum of three months, extendable dependent on the extent of virus spread; any quarantined area to have business rates annulled for the period of non-trading; a business payment delay to ease cash-flow, and a cut in VAT for hospitality and tourism, to incentivise bookings.
It also asks the Government to make available low- or interest-free loans to cover trade disruption for hospitality and tourism businesses and adapt Universal Credit to support businesses suffering severe trade and cashflow disruption, by contributing to wage payments for those whose services are not needed in the short-term.
“Hospitality businesses are on the front line, so to speak. There has been a significant impact on the sector. Bookings are down, footfall is down, and all signs point to it getting worse before it gets better,” says UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls.
“This is now an emergency for our sector. If Government doesn’t act to mitigate the impact and give us support, businesses are in danger. This means cash flow becomes a problem, venues are under threat and jobs at risk. By the time the immediate threat of the virus has subsided it may be too late for some businesses. Support is needed and it is needed now.”