Hoteliers urge Government to allow bigger gatherings

A hotel association has hit out over the new ‘rule of six’ and is urging the Government to do more to help the industry.

The restrictions, which mean a maximum of six people can now meet indoors or outdoors, is “making it very difficult” for hotels to operate, according to head of Bristol Hoteliers Association (BHA).

Raphael Herzog, chair of the BHA, said: “A meeting for 30 people is ok under the current restrictions, but a dinner is not – other than for a wedding.

“So, 30 people can come to our hotels for a meeting, but we can’t host a social dinner for a birthday or wedding anniversary in a private room as people are restricted to tables of six in our restaurants.

“It’s very difficult for us to resume business properly and the end of the furlough scheme will only make it harder for businesses to balance the books.

“Unemployment has already increased massively this month and when furlough ends next month, this number is only likely to go up.”

Despite a boost in August from summer staycations, the BHA said overall business in 2020 is likely to be half of last year – or even less.

“We have made significant investments and implemented many procedures to make our hotels safe for guests,” said Mr Herzog.

“We need to get larger events and increased numbers of people through our doors.

“Pilot events are being tested in some hotels and events spaces across the country but we need the Government to speed up this process and increase the numbers we are allowed with some urgency.

“It doesn’t help that people who attend a meeting during the day – even though they will be safely socially distanced – are not allowed to then have a dinner together.”

Mr Herzog is urging chancellor Rishi Sunak to extend the furlough scheme which is providing support to millions of businesses.

He said: “Germany has furlough until March 2022, and France has singled out tourism and other sectors to have an extended furlough scheme until the middle of 2021 in order to help keep people in their jobs and provide some longer-term support and stability for struggling businesses.

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“Here, the hospitality sector will have benefited from it between April and October, which has been great in the short term, but we needed longer-term support and solutions.”

He added: “The furlough scheme, the eat out to help out scheme, the business rates holidays and the reduction in VAT have all been beneficial to many businesses, and we’re grateful for them.

“But ultimately, they are only temporary measures. We need the Government to commit to providing some longer-term support in order to enable us to keep our businesses running and to help the economy recover from this crisis.”

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