Bookings cancelled and plans changed as 'chilling talk of Plan B' hits hospitality sector

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Bookings cancelled and plans changed as 'chilling talk of Plan B' hits hospitality sector

Postby dutchman » Wed Dec 01, 2021 9:38 pm

Business owners across the hospitality industry say COVID rule changes are already having a "chilling" impact on bookings

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Many who have survived 20 months of lockdowns and restrictions as well as a "lost" Christmas last year, say a strong festive period this year is essential to their survival.

Data from reservations website OpenTable also suggests that diners became more cautious over the weekend after news of the Omicron variant came to light.

New restrictions came into place at 4am on Tuesday morning, including mandatory mask wearing on public transport, in shops, museums and other locations.

While the hospitality sector is, thus far, exempt from these rules, many fear a nervousness setting in amongst customers.

Sacha Lord, the night-time economy adviser for Greater Manchester, is one voice already sounding the alarm.

"Every restaurant I've spoken to today, is now experiencing Xmas party cancellations." he said on Twitter.

"Most of these businesses desperately needed a good December.

"The knock on effect will be catastrophic. Businesses, jobs, supply chain. A blow to a devastating year."

OpenTable's figures suggest that the level of people opting to eat out did fall in relative terms this weekend compared to the previous weekend.

On Saturday 20 November the number of seated diners was up 31% on the level seen two years ago - but by Saturday 27 November this had fallen to 20%.

There is concern that a lack of clarity from the government and those who advise it is not helping.

On Tuesday Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK's Health Security Agency, said that "not socialising when we don't particularly need to" would "help keep the virus at bay".

The inference seemed to be that people should reduce contacts over the festive period and potentially cancel Christmas parties.

"The chilling talk of Plan B is already being felt across hospitality as bookings are cancelled and plans changed," said Kate Nicholls, chief executive of trade body UK Hospitality.

"There is no doubt that this will have a damaging effect on businesses, just as they head into their key trading period.

"This all comes at a critical time for the sector, as costs are rising across the board, supply chain issues continue, chronic labour shortages show no sign of easing and next year will see a return of 20% VAT rate."

The importance of this period and customer confidence is being echoed by those in retail.

Many are very aware that real disposable income is falling due to the steep rises in petrol and energy costs as well as inflation more generally.

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