According to leading business organisation the CBI there are signs that sentiment in the service sector is improving and the decline in business activity is starting to slow, despite the ongoing recession.
In summing up its latest quarterly survey, the CBI said the hotels, bars and restaurants sector had seen a sharp fall in the volume of business in the three months to May 13, 2009, down 66 per cent compared with a decline in the previous three months of four per cent.
However the survey found that the value of business fell less steeply, down 16 per cent versus a 36 per cent decline in the preceding quarter.
Overall profitability saw a smaller decline than the previous period, down three per cent after a 56 per cent fall.
Firms polled were "more optimistic about the business situation - up 37 per cent compared with a slump in sentiment of 81 per cent in the previous three months, the CBI added.
Ian McCafferty, the CBI's chief economic adviser, said the survey of 179 businesses suggested the worst of the recession might be over.
"Firms are a lot less pessimistic than they were three months ago, and although the recession has deepened, business is not expected to decline at the same rate going forward as it has in the past six months," he said.
"Although the situation is very tough for firms, some tentative grounds for cautious optimism are starting to appear in some areas," he added.