Hoteliers 'disappointed' as hospitality sector faces three more months of lockdown

The Prime Minister's decision to keep hotels closed until May as lockdown is slowly lifted across the country has divided opinion among Blackpool hoteliers who say they have been 'financially devastated'.
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Boris Johnson will announce his roadmap plans for unravelling Britain’s third national coronavirus lockdown today.

Schools are expected to be first on the list when it comes to the easing of lockdown restrictions, with all schools being allowed to reopen from March 8. But the hospitality sector must wait until May at the very least before reopening as the Government hopes to keep infection rates stable.

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Stay Blackpool boss Claire Smith, who runs the Number One South Beach Hotel on Harrowside, said: “It’s hugely disappointing. It’s a real kick in the teeth because we have followed all the guidelines and made everything Covid-19 secure - we did all that last year. We know exactly what we have to do and we have proven that we did a good job of it because the infection rates in hotels were really, really low. I’m confused and hugely disappointed.

“The pandemic has been mentally and financially devastating. Every week that we continue on there are more and more businesses closing, giving the keys back and an going into bankruptcy.

“We have spent all our money on supporting our businesses. The only money we have now to put into our business is our pension. That’s our last resort, but at least we have got that behind us. There’s many younger people who can’t.

“If the Government doesn’t extend the furlough scheme, or the minute it’s said that the sceme will not continue, there will be thousands of people made redundant because there’s nothing in the pot.

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“We normally get through the winter by squirrelling away money from the summer, but this year there was nothing to squirrel away. We thought if we could make it to Easter we would be OK.

“But saying that, we don’t want to reopen too earlier and go into another lockdown later on. That would really be the end.”

Ian White, owner of the Chorlton Hotel on Hull Road, said: “As a hotelier and also a director of Stay Blackpool there is a desperate need for the guidelines today.

“I know many are hoping for some easing ready for Easter, so May will be a disappointment for many. Many of us are maxed out on loans and mortgage holidays, though certainly everyone’s situation is different,

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“Some owners are also on the shielding list, and difficult decisions will need to be made.

“Clearly the vaccine roll out as well as the lock down have played a significant part in where we are today.”

Councillor Gerard Walsh, who runs the Tudor Rose Hotel on Coronation Street, said: “I think we are feeling optimistic and excited about finally opening back up again. I think Blackpool has a lot to offer and during lockdown people have realised what they have missed. I think the country has realised that Blackpool is a good place to be and it is my hope that they’re going to come back in their droves. I see it as a phoenix rising from the ashes.

“Blackpool is a very events-driven town, from dance festivals to darts, so I think how successful the hotels will be will depend on how quickly we can get the crowds back. If we don’t get the events back, it may be that we’re running at half-capacity.

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“The past few months have been a real nightmare for the hotels. Our last guests were in October. We just missed the pigeon show and now we’re missing the junior dancers in April. It has been a very, very difficult time. The support that we’ve had from the Government has been a life-saver.

“I think people were expecting a lot of businesses to fold.

“We’ll probably get a good idea of the long-term damage that has been done when restrictions are lifted. Fingers crossed it won’t be as bad as people expect it to be, but that won’t mean there aren’t some sad stories.”