MA Leaders Club

‘We might have survived the black swan of Covid but still have grey rhinoceros of debt’

By Nikkie Thatcher

- Last updated on GMT

Industry representation: UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls lays out the trade body's work on giving the sector's perspective to Government
Industry representation: UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls lays out the trade body's work on giving the sector's perspective to Government

Related tags Multi-site pub operators ukhospitality Kate nicholls London

While the sector has battled the pandemic, it still has the debt as a result of the crisis, UKHospitality (UKH) chief executive Kate Nicholls has warned.

Speaking at The Morning Advertiser​’s MA Leaders Club conference at Fabric in Farringdon, central London yesterday (Thursday24 February), Nicholls outlined what the trade association is talking to Government about to help the sector recover from the pandemic.

She highlighted the Hospitality Strategy, which consists of four parts, touching on reopening, recovery, resilience and longer-term reform measures.

Long-haul strategy

Nicholls said: “[The Hospitality Strategy] sits alongside the Tourism Recovery Plan. For any London operators who are very dependent upon international tourism and business tourism coming back, the Tourism Recovery Plan just as important as the Hospitality Recovery Plan, and crucially commits the Government to recovering our sector’s revenue and footfall a year ahead of independent targets.

“That still means recovery for our sector, as far as the Government is concerned in 2023/2024 and internationally, it's pushing into 2025.

“This is a long-haul strategy that we are needing to work through with the Government. We need to keep their feet to the fire to make sure that they don't think that [now], when they lose all the legal rate restrictions on Covid and Covid is sort of officially dead as far as Government is concerned, we need to ensure they don't think it's job done as far as our sector is concerned, because we might have survived the black swan of Covid, but we have still got that grey rhinoceros of  debt which is running alongside us and could still knock us off track.

“It's probably going to be about 18 months to two years before we come out the other side and we may still see quite a lot of losses meantime.”

The recent announcement of all coronavirus restrictions being dropped, which came into force from yesterday (Thursday 24 February) means the Government’s legislative power to introduce immediate new powers has been removed, Nicholls stated.

However, she also warned of the impact on consumer confidence should new waves of the virus be announced.

Looking ahead

She added: “The idea of a sudden shock where you could go back into lockdown, or you could reintroduce economic restrictions without going to Parliament has been taken away “[We’ve also had] a clear plan published earlier this week about living with Covid, which talks about antivirals and vaccines, and to no reference of economic restrictions of how we are going to live with this disease as we go through pandemic to endemic.

“That doesn't mean there's going to be no disruption to our businesses. We'll see what happens with consumer confidence when you have announcements of new waves and although we're moving out to the pandemic phase, you are still going to see those new waves we are just going to ride that out as far as the Government is concerned.

“One key point though is it not the end of the working safer workplace guidance so you will all have safe workplace guidance all explicitly got to include Covid for health and safety risk assessment. That doesn't end until 1 April so you still need to have those measures in place.”

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