NW Hotels call for Covid rescue plan

Celebrity Infinity at the cruise liner terminal

Hoteliers across Liverpool and the North West have made an urgent plea to government to save the sector from collapse due to Covid restricitons.

The three chairs of the Liverpool, Chester and Manchester Hoteliers Associations have penned an open letter calling on northern politicians and business leaders to develop an economic rescue plan with 10 Downing Street, “to avoid catastrophe and potential failure of the Northern Powerhouse”.

In Liverpool city centre alone, hotel occupancy from March 1 to August 31 had halved, with just 450,00 rooms sold in that 6 month period compared to 1 million in 2019.

The three Associations represent over 250 plus hospitality businesses with numbers rising.

Marcus Magee, General Manager at Hilton Liverpool and chair of Liverpool Hospitality Association, said; “The immediate introduction of tier three to Liverpool City region meant an immediate recommendation on not travelling to a tier 3 area, instantly paralysing the need for hotels, many overnight stays released overnight, putting all hospitality businesses large and small in a precarious position to remain trading.”

Liverpool City Council has launched a £10m emergency stop gap fund to help hospitality businesses but has told government this will not be enough to avoid countless thousands of job losses across the sector.

Steven Hesketh, CEO of Savvy Hotels and chair of Chester Hospitality Association, with independent hotels in both Chester and Liverpool, said; “There are a tsunami of job losses already and whilst the tiered situation may have differences, Chester being sandwiched between Merseyside and North Wales, means our customer base is already cut off with these areas unable to travel. The result of this is that bookings have all but dried up.”

Video: The hotel sector has struggled since lockdown, listen to Steven Hesketh here talking in April at its outset.

Adrian Ellis, General Manager of the Lowry Manchester and chair of Manchester Hoteliers Association added; “Manchester has been under stricter restrictions than the rest of the country for months now, the cities’ hotel occupancies have been on their knees for some time and the furlough scheme must be re-reviewed at an instant to avoid further damage.”

In all three cities, the hospitality sector underpins much of the economic activity across the region. In Liverpool alone, it generates £3bn a year to the city’s economy and employs 38,000 people.

The open letter states that wider economy will also be affected as hospitality venues hire accountants, HR consultants, marketing agencies and digital companies and they have a huge supply chain to deliver F&B.

It continued: “In addition, hospitality already has many companies, in the events, cultural and sporting sectors, hanging on by a thread. The devastation this is causing to Northern England is putting in concrete the North South divide.

“As Christmas nears and tier politics continue, anger and frustration from business is exacerbated by the fact that there is no evidence that local lockdowns are working – and seemingly there is no strategy beyond lockdown. So, what happens if the ‘R’ rate goes down in October. Do we have another grand re-opening of the hospitality venues in November, only to see infection rates creep up again, leading to a Christmas shutdown?

“The government are treating businesses with contempt. There has been no consultation, no forward planning and no consideration of the wider implications to the economy or indeed other health matters. We demand the government listen to the collective voices of political and business leaders from across the north.

We are all concerned about infection rates, but we must address the wider implications of placing businesses and cities in paralysis, with very little direct business support.”