Hospitality sector fears ‘three winters in a row’

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Simon Soar, president of the Jersey Hospitality Association, said that he believed government support needed to be provided for businesses that have been forced to operate at reduced capacity due to ongoing restrictions during the virus outbreak.

And he warned that many firms in his sector might not make a profit again until the summer of 2021.

Mr Soar’s concerns have been echoed by Jersey Pottery’s director Dominic Jones who, in a column on page 14 today, says that social-distancing measures could halve custom for most restaurants.

Earlier this week Visit Jersey chief executive Keith Beecham suggested that Jersey should aim to market itself as a safe ‘staycation’ destination for UK tourists post-crisis, using its open spaces and strong public services as selling points.

Mr Soar said that when the Island would reopen to tourists was the ‘million dollar question’ for businesses in his sector.

‘There is the health aspect, the economic support aspect, and then the causal side that we have got to all understand as things progress,’ he said.

‘So, we have got to work out bit by bit how we can reopen, when are we going to let people back in and when is that going to happen.

‘If the lifting of travel restrictions does not happen before July, in particular from the UK, then we will lose the summer season. So, businesses are going to face what is effectively the equivalent of three winter seasons in a row.

‘These sorts of businesses go into overdraft every year during the winter to get themselves back for the summer season. So, do that three times in a row and see what happens to them. We need to make sure that the government is really aware of this.’

Mr Soar added that he believed long-term support might be needed to keep many tourism and hospitality businesses alive so they could look to open again for a full summer season in 2021.

‘If businesses can open again as restrictions are lifted but can only operate at 50% capacity, then we have to retain some support for those businesses until they are allowed to operate at full capacity and make the money that they need,’ he said. ‘It is not just about making the money they need to put food on the table week to week. They have got to build up the fat to get through winter again.

‘These businesses spend all summer saving enough to get through winter to then go again the next summer. We are a very seasonal sector and there has to be an understanding of that.’

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