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Live Blog: Coronavirus Briefing for the Hospitality Industry

Live Blog: Coronavirus Briefing for the Hospitality Industry

Coronavirus Update for the Hospitality Industry

Update 07/07/2020 – Coronavirus Briefing for the Hospitality Industry – Super Saturday Special

The UK Hospitality Industry is officially open again, at least partially. Many pubs and restaurants have once again opened their doors to customers, but there are still stringent rules in place regarding what customers can and cannot do.

Super Saturday has now come and gone, here are the most prevalent stories and insights following this historic weekend:

Hospitality is open, but businesses and customers mostly remain cautious. This seems to be due to the increasing fear of a second spike in COVID-19 cases. There is concern that Super Saturday may have happened too soon. While it’s essential for restaurants and pubs to re-open if the industry is to survive, a second spike would likely cause more damage in the long run. Most people stuck to the rules except for a few cases. Read more here.

Pret A Manger to close 30 locations and cut 1000 jobs. The news comes just days after the UK hospitality industry officially reopened on Super Saturday. Pret A Manger are just the latest firm to announce job cuts in recent days. Prior to the 4th July a swathe of companies also announced similar measures while the industry was gearing up for a comeback. Read more here.

More hospitality industry leaders have called on the Government to provide ‘urgent support”. Calls for more support have been common throughout the coronavirus pandemic, but the loudest by far interestingly came 48 hours after the industry re-opened. Now over 100 industry leaders from across the sector have added their voices to the calls, demanding more support in an effort to save hospitality in the UK. Read more here.

#Coronavirus #Hospitality #NewNormal

If you’re in need of temporary marketing support during the coronavirus pandemic then get in touch here https://virtual-solutions.co.uk/temporary-marketing-support/

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Update 02/07/2020 – Coronavirus Briefing for the Hospitality Industry

UK based hospitality firm Inception Group has opened a £25,000 bar tab for NHS staff.

The pub company operates multiple sites and has welcomed front line workers to stop by and have a drink (or several) on them. All NHS staff will need to do is show their ID badges to qualify. Inception has said they “want to express their gratitude” and that this was the best way they knew how to show it. Read more here.

The UK Government has made changes to its Job Retention Scheme. The changes came into effect on the 1st July and allows businesses to bring back staff on a part-time basis, but with further support from the Government to allow them to do so. The scheme is optional but will allow employers to keep staff employed in some capacity, as they will have financial aid to pay them. Read more here.

A plethora of companies have announced job cuts only days before the 4th of July. The list of companies also includes bakery firm, Upper Crust. The surprising news has come as a shock to many people, who were gearing up to return to work. While many hospitality businesses were hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, this was the week that was expected to usher in the road to recovery. Read more here.

Hotels to undergo radical changes to their ‘rituals’ as they return from lockdown. Hotels all over the world have been creating cleanliness initiatives and other sweeping changes as they prepare to welcome back guests. PPE, social distancing and new habits are expected to replace older ‘rituals’ that hotel guests have come to expect. Read more here.

#Coronavirus #Hospitality #NewNormal

If you’re in need of temporary marketing support during the coronavirus pandemic then get in touch here https://virtual-solutions.co.uk/temporary-marketing-support/

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Update 30/06/2020 – Coronavirus Briefing for the Hospitality Industry

The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) has published instructions regarding the 4th July. The BBPA have released a set of guidelines on how pubs can operate within the Government’s COVID-19 rules when they open on the 4th July. This will include what events they can run, food they can serve and how customers will be permitted access and tracked once they are. Read more here.

According to a report from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), over 200 million tourism jobs could be at risk. The is as a knock-on effect from various company’s responses to COVID-19. The pandemic has caused many businesses to complete an audit of their expenditure and cut jobs as a result. The WTTC fear this will continue despite the apparent remission of the virus from many regions. The lasting economic damage caused by the pandemic will take longer to recover from than the virus itself. Read more here.

Employee mental health – Why now is the time to create an employee wellness plan. COVID-19 lockdown, race protests, financial instability and general uncertainty will have taken a toll on the many people’s mental health over the past few months. Now more than ever it’s important for employers to recognise the mental health struggles of their staff and show their support. An employee mental health wellness plan can achieve this. Read more here.

The UK ‘staycation’ market is expected to surge in the coming months. The UK tourism industry is expected to get a boost in the coming months as more and more people look to find an alternative to their usual foreign summer holiday. Various booking groups are already reporting an increase in bookings. Read more here.

#Coronavirus #Hospitality #NewNormal

If you’re in need of temporary marketing support during the coronavirus pandemic then get in touch here https://virtual-solutions.co.uk/temporary-marketing-support/

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Update 23/06/2020 – Coronavirus Briefing for the Hospitality Industry

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed an easing of lockdown restrictions from the 4th July. From that date, pubs, restaurants and hotels will be able to open once again for the first time since March. Social distancing measures will still be in place, but the 2-metre rule has now been reduced to 1-metre following pressure from the industry. It’s believed that this will allow the industry to begin the path to recovery. A range of other restrictions were also announced, read the full story here.

The COVID-19 alert level was reduced from 4 to 3 last week with many commentators saying this was the perfect time for the UK Government to confirm a re-opening date. The 4th July has been touted as a possible date since the ‘R system’ was announced but no confirmation has yet been given. A UKHospitality spokesperson said; “Dropping the alert level is a clear message from Government that Britain is moving towards a return to normality. Now would be the perfect time to confirm 4th July as the date for reopening.” Read more about this story here.

Poor meat plant conditions may be contributing to further outbreaks of COVID-19. The Guardian newspaper in the UK has reported that Food and Environmental unions have called for action after a spike in infections among plant workers. The poor conditions are not only risking workers health and safety, but that of the meat that is treated there. And therefore, the general population too. So far nearly 30,000 meat-plant workers have tested positive for coronavirus in the United States alone. Read more about this story here.

#Coronavirus #Hospitality #NewNormal

If you’re in need of temporary marketing support during the coronavirus pandemic then get in touch here https://virtual-solutions.co.uk/temporary-marketing-support/

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Update 18/06/2020 – Coronavirus Briefing for the Hospitality Industry

The CBI President calls for the two-metre social distancing rule to become one metre. Lord Karan Bilimoria, who is also the founder of Cobra Beer and an influential figure in the hospitality industry has called on the Government to relax the two-metre social distancing rule and cut it down to one metre. Lord Bilimoria is just the latest voice in the sector to support the cause, arguing that not doing could be catastrophic for the industry. Read more here.

New York City Governor threatens to revoke liquor licenses if restaurants don’t obey lockdown rules.  Governor Cuomo, who has spent much of the COVID-19 crisis locking horns with US President Donald Trump over safety rules, has warned businesses that social distancing measures are still in effect. Bars and restaurants that flout the law will risk losing their license to sell alcohol. The city has been hit extremely hard by the virus and has an uphill battle ahead of itself to become COVID free. Read more here.

Restaurants have lost an estimated $120 million during the first three months of the COVID-19 pandemic. The figures come from the National Restaurant Association (NRA) who also expect the sector to remain unprofitable until the end of the year unless there is a significant shift in public behaviour. However, with social distancing measures still in place and public caution following the virus, any upswing is unlikely to occur until at least 2021. The NRA have also reported that many businesses in the hospitality industry don’t expect to turn a profit in 2020.  Read more here.

#Coronavirus #Hospitality #NewNormal

If you’re in need of temporary marketing support during the coronavirus pandemic then get in touch here https://virtual-solutions.co.uk/temporary-marketing-support/

Virtual Solutions

Update 16/06/2020 – Coronavirus Briefing for the Hospitality Industry

The UK Government is looking at different quarantine options for people entering the country. The current rules are that those coming in from abroad need to spend two weeks in quarantine to make sure they are free from coronavirus. However, Chancellor Rishi Sunak is examining ways of safely relaxing this in the near future to help businesses that are struggling to cope with a two-week delay. Read more about this story here.

The travel industry in China is starting to show new signs of life. China was the first country in the world to be impacted by coronavirus but is starting to emerge from the pandemic and recover. Despite reports of a second spike in Beijing, which has put parts of the city back into lockdown, domestic flight numbers have steadily grown in the past few weeks. It’s estimated that the domestic traveller count is now at 50% of normal capacity. The occupancy rates of hotels have also improved. Read more here.

TripAdvisor face “many challenges” after COVID-19. The online platform has struggled to stay afloat with the travel, hospitality and tourism sectors also suffering as a result of coronavirus. The company’s shares are down 33%, 23% of employees have lost their jobs with another 22% furloughed. While the industry is expected to bounce back the company has a long road to recovery according to analysts. Read more here.

The EU’s Schengen area is implementing measures to reopen Europe in the wake of coronavirus. The Global Business Travel Association are coordinating efforts alongside the European Commission to safely resume travel in the region without the risk of a second spike. Borders are set to reopen gradually from 1st July.  Read more here.

#Coronavirus #Hospitality #NewNormal

If you’re in need of temporary marketing support during the coronavirus pandemic then get in touch here https://virtual-solutions.co.uk/temporary-marketing-support/

Virtual Solutions

Update 11/06/2020 – Coronavirus Briefing for the Hospitality Industry

Business Secretary Alok Sharma has confirmed the Hospitality Industry will not open sooner than the 4th July. Many businesses in the sector were hoping they’d be able to open sooner after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson expressed his confidence that they could. However, these hopes have been dashed by Mr Sharma’s pronouncements this week.

The Government suggested July as a potential time for the industry to return to begin to open back when they revealed their ‘R rate of infection system’ last month. Some parts of the UK have seen a spike in infection rates or have seen their rates come down slower than other areas. It’s also expected that the industry will open in stages rather than all at once to make sure social distancing measures can be controlled. Read more here

The Scottish Government have confirmed they aim to begin opening up the hospitality sector from the 15th July. Scottish Tourism Minister, Fergus Ewing confirmed the update on the 10th June. Scotland have been taking a decidedly more cautious approach than England throughout the pandemic. The Scottish Parliament will be conducting a review of the lockdown measures on the 9th July and is expected to confirm more detail then. Read more here.

The UK Government has announced changes to lockdown from the 10th June. These changes may provide a window for all businesses, including those in the Hospitality Industry, to see into the Government’s strategy and plan their own accordingly. The biggest change is the introduction of a social “bubble” – where one household can now mingle with those who may live alone. It also allows couples who don’t live together to spend time together too. Read more about the changes here.

#Coronavirus #Hospitality #NewNormal

If you’re in need of temporary marketing support during the coronavirus pandemic then get in touch here https://virtual-solutions.co.uk/temporary-marketing-support/

Virtual Solutions

Update 09/06/2020 – Coronavirus Briefing for the Hospitality Industry

Hotels will enter a new era of cleanliness and hygiene post-COVID-19. Health, safety, cleanliness and hygiene have always been important to the hospitality industry and standards have always been high. But after viruses have reaffirmed themselves as humanity’s greatest threat, cleanliness will be under more scrutiny than ever. It will also be essential to win back customer confidence in the industry. Read more about this here.

The US has reported a decline in profit for the leisure industry, but customers are returning. The industry has seen an abrupt stop since lockdown measures began in the country which has naturally caused profit to be at an all-time low. Although customers are beginning to emerge and go back to leisure pursuits they used to enjoy. Social distancing is still in place as caution reigns, but the seeds to returning to normal are slowly being planted. Read more here.

OYO Hotels and Homes have unveiled a new scheme to prepare sites for reopening. The independent hotel chain has revealed new procedures to prepare its hotels for welcoming back guests in the era of social distancing. The company aims to introduce a ‘minimal-touch experience’, enabling customers to move about their hotels while maintaining safety and wellbeing. Read more about how it will work here.

Egypt’s hospitality industry introduces on-site health clinics. The move has been made to encourage domestic tourism across the country so that Egyptians will feel comfortable travelling. Safe in the knowledge that if they fall ill, help will be readily available. It’s expected the same principle will be applied to foreign visitors once international travel returns. Read more here.

#Coronavirus #Hospitality #NewNormal

If you’re in need of temporary marketing support during the coronavirus pandemic then get in touch here https://virtual-solutions.co.uk/temporary-marketing-support/

Virtual Solutions

Update 29/05/2020 – Coronavirus Briefing for the Hospitality Industry

10 Creative customer experience ideas for social distancing – Is it still possible to create an exceptional customer experience from two metres away? What measures can restaurants put in place to create an air of normality? Discover some of the most imaginative methods restaurants have come up with so far. Learn more about by clicking here.

Holding virtual cooking events may be the secret to cooking up success – Greenwood Hospitality Group has developed a novel idea for engaging with their local community. Ideas such as this can help a business stay connected to its local customers, allowing them to stay relevant. Learn more about this story here.

How to reopen your hotel after lockdown – 7 steps to recovery – Reopening your hotel after coronavirus lockdown is something every hotel needs to get right. This is something business owners will only get one chance at. Taking the rights steps is paramount to success. Here are 7 strategies to make this a success. Read about each of these steps here.

Innovation is key when it comes sustaining the hospitality sector during COVID-19 – What can businesses do to stay connected and prepare for the “glorious uplift” when customers are able to return? Creativity and engagement will be key to winning back customers once lockdown is lifted. What can your brand do that’s unique? Learn more about innovation here.

What can hotel owners learn from businesses that have reopened in China? – Many hotel owners in China have weathered the COVID-19 storm and have reopened to the public. What lessons can we learn from them? What can we do differently and how can we emulate successful businesses? Learn more here.

#Coronavirus #Hospitality #NewNormal

If you’re in need of temporary marketing support during the coronavirus pandemic then get in touch here https://virtual-solutions.co.uk/temporary-marketing-support/

Virtual Solutions

Update 13/05/2020 – Coronavirus Briefing for the Hospitality Industry

As we reported earlier this week in our Hospitality Highlights, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed the nation on the evening of the 10th of May 2020 to give an update about the state of COVID-19 in the UK.

The main takeaway was that social distancing was remaining in effect, at least until June while the country continues to battle the virus and stop it from spreading. The Government also introduced a new threat level system to help the UK track the severity and reproduction rate of the virus.

Has Anything Changed for The Hospitality Industry?

The answer to this question is no, not at this stage. However, the Prime Minister did offer a roadmap for when he hopes our industry may begin the path of returning to life. But there is a long way to go before this can fully become a reality.

During his address, the Prime Minister said, “some parts of the hospitality industry could reopen from the 1st July, but no earlier.” Although how many, which ones and how this will be decided is yet to be addressed. It’s also fully dependant on whether or not the UK is successful in reducing the rate of COVID-19 infection across the country.

If the virus spikes again then it’s likely this will be postponed until August or later. It’s also important to point out that the 1st July only represents the start of when some parts of the industry will be able to return, not all. And these may not open in a full or ‘business as usual’ capacity. So the best-case scenario is only some businesses are reopening from that date.

More clarity from the Government is needed and is expected closer to the time. We imagine we will know more about the 1st of July by early June, as this is the Governments next milestone. And when they are aiming to relax more lockdown measures. However again, this is dependent on the successful the country is at halting the spread of COVID-19.

What Can Businesses Do to Prepare?

While not much has changed in practice, it’s good to know there is a plan in place to restore our industry and while there may still be obstacles to overcome in getting there; the 1st of July should be treated as a target to aim for. There’s no guarantee your business will be operating again by then, but it could be, or perhaps soon after.

We would recommend that you continue to market your business in preparation for this date. Don’t promise customers you’ll be open again, as you may not be, but steadily ramp up your social media presence in anticipation.

Remember Virtual Solutions are currently providing a Temporary Marketing Support service. This may be helpful in getting your marketing prepared for when it’s time to reopen. If you need an extra pair of hands or guidance; then get in touch here https://virtual-solutions.co.uk/temporary-marketing-support/

Virtual Solutions

Update 07/05/2020 – Coronavirus Briefing for the Hospitality Industry

Will the Public Flock Back to Restaurants?

Naturally the public will be looking forward to hotels and restaurants reopening when the world gets back to normal. Not only will people be keen to make up for lost time, but some experts believe them doing so will be crucial to getting the economy kick-started. The hospitality industry will need (and more than likely receive) this metaphorical shot in the arm when the time comes, but will it happen the way many initially believed it would?

Of course, nobody is advocating the public should necessarily go running to restaurants and hotels as soon as they can. Some regions may be safer than others and caution will be essential to making sure the virus remains in remission so that a second spike doesn’t occur.

Using China as a Template

When Wuhan attempted to get back to normal, the first time they were free of COVID-19, this unfortunately did lead to further outbreaks. Perhaps they attempted this too soon, or perhaps some social distancing measures should have been used for a while longer.

The region is now coronavirus free once again, but this time the people of Wuhan are being much more cautious.

Restaurants are open but empty, and the fear of the virus is still strong. Other countries will also learn from this and will be keen to not make the same mistake. Some businesses in China are actually frustrated that they are open, as doing so is costing them more money than being closed would.

Predicting What Will Happen in the UK

The UK sadly now has the highest death toll from COVID-19 in all of Europe and this will impact people’s habits. While the Government is planning to steadily ease social distancing measures over time, it’s becoming apparent that there won’t be a ‘mad rush’ as many people once predicted.

Confidence will need to build gradually, and it may take a year or longer for what we consider normality to return. Once it does though, this may be when the hospitality industry sees it’s predicted surge of support, but that could be a long time away. Perhaps once a vaccine has been mas-produced.

Although support from the public may come in other ways. Customers may still be cautious about getting back to normal, and still show some restraint by only going out on rare occasions, but they may spend more money when they do. While customers may not dine out as often as they once did, they may take advantage of the opportunity when they do and take advantage of the occasion.

While it’s difficult to fully predict what may happen, the above does give us some insight into how customers will respond and what that could mean for our industry. We’re confident better times are coming but getting there may well be gradual.

Virtual Solutions

Update 27/04/2020 – Coronavirus Briefing for the Hospitality Industry

Further Advice and Tips

At the start of this pandemic, we offered a lot of practical advice and suggestions on how businesses could support themselves. At that point in time, the world was still learning about coronavirus and our aim was to cut through the noise and deliver the facts.

Over recent entries, this blog has become a place where we assess the updates that affect the hospitality industry as well as offering our own analysis.

Today we’d like to discuss some more practical tips. Some of these ideas have been communicated earlier but are now relevant again, whilst some of the advice is new and growing in relevance.

Have you investigated and applied for all possible support?

Governments across the globe have been working on different plans of action and ways they can support businesses throughout the crisis, and the UK Government is no different.

However, not all businesses have applied for the available support packages – reasons stated have included, not knowing what is available, not knowing what the business is eligible for, and finding it too complicated to deal with.

We highly recommend that if you’ve not already investigated what support is available to you, that you take the time to do so. No one is sure when the COVID-19 crisis will end, and many top officials have stated that life won’t get back to normal immediately once it does.

For more information about UK COVID-19 relief and financial options, visit HMRC’s dedicated page.

What about your creditors?

By this, we mean your bank or landlord. We know rent is a contentious issue in the hospitality industry right now and every case is different, but if help from a landlord is on offer then it is worth your time to investigate whether it’s an arrangement that works for you.

The same can be said from your bank if they offer a payment holiday. Advice from Financial Experts, however, says if you can afford to not take a payment holiday then you shouldn’t.

As I’m sure you don’t need us to tell you, considering your financial planning and actions very carefully is essential to the future of your business.

Are your team being utilised correctly?

Depending on the nature of your business your employees may be furloughed working from home, taking the opportunity to train or improving their own personal skills.

Many companies have been coming up with creative ideas to utilise their staff, services and venues – from supporting the NHS by cooking meals, creating makeshift hospitals out of hotels or helping care workers.

Whether you’re offering help to the Key Workers, supporting vulnerable individuals, or working hard to keep your staff supported, it’s important that you look at your team structure regularly. As the situation continues to change, re-evaluating the structure you may have put into operation in a rush, will benefit your business.

Prepare for life after the pandemic

Measures for dealing with coronavirus and the ramifications are constantly changing. With experts monitoring the situation, the timeline for social distancing to end is still largely unclear.

Preparing a strategy and deciding on goals and metrics to measure your success once the pandemic has passed will help you see what’s working for your business, what needs to change, and how well any recovery efforts are proceeding.

Virtual Solutions

Update 23/04/2020 – Coronavirus Briefing for the Hospitality Industry

Positive Steps Taken by The UK Hospitality Industry

Part 2

Continuing our theme from earlier in the week focusing on positive steps the hospitality industry is taking, today we have some new information which may be of use.

Appy To Help

Technology company QSR Automations are known for specialising in helping restaurants improve their productivity. They do this by creating cutting edge technology that restaurants can use to streamline their processes.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the company have created a free app called ConnectSmart Go.

The app is a management platform, designed to streamline food orders that come in online or elsewhere. It allows the restaurateur to keep on top of their orders and organise them in a fashion that suits their cooking, serving and delivery style.

Whether a business is new to delivery and needing the process structure or has been doing it for a while and is looking to streamline, this free service could provide a simple solution.

Support for the NHS

It’s amazing to see how many members of the hospitality industry are banding together to help the NHS. Despite facing a tremendous amount of strain and uncertainty, the altruistic nature of those who work within it has been nothing short of incredible.

Italian restaurant chain Bella Italia are the latest group to step in and support NHS workers. The group have committed to preparing 1000 free meals for front line workers in the coming days. They have partnered with Deliveroo to make this happen.

In fact, this latest partnership with the delivery company has established is part of its own mission to deliver 500,000 free meals to NHS staff.

This is certainly something we will continue to follow and celebrate each milestone of success which takes some of the burden from our hard-working and dedicated key workers.

We have every confidence that despite the hospitality industry’s own challenges; this target will be reached, and that the positivity and forward-thinking hospitality businesses who are looking out for others as well as themselves, will be remembered by the public once this is all over.

Virtual Solutions

Update 21/04/2020 – Coronavirus Briefing for the Hospitality Industry

Positive Steps Taken by The UK Hospitality Industry

For the past few blog posts we’ve done our best to provide our followers with some reasons to be cheerful, but as you may have seen from today’s Hospitality Highlights, Cabinet Minister Michael Gove delivered some disappointing news this week, saying that our industry may be one of the last to open once coronavirus is defeated.

Other experts have predicted that hospitality could be on the front line of the UK’s financial recovery and that the industry may even lead the charge.

Some of the UK’s leading Restaurant and Bar groups, including Burger King,  Gordon Ramsay Group, Living Ventures, Hawksmoor and Dishroom have signed a letter to the treasury, calling for businesses in the Hospitality, Leisure, and Retail industries to have a #NationalTimeOut period that would guarantee them no rent for nine months. They are hoping that such a move will help protect the 3.2 million jobs in the Hospitality sector which are at risk due to the lockdown. They’ve stated that without some extraordinary measures, at least 2 million jobs will not survive.

Chefs, Restaurants and Hospitality Businesses Serving the NHS

Despite the uncertainty, there are many activities in our industry that deserve to be celebrated, including the Hospitality for Heroes initiative which includes chefs such as Sally Abe, Ollie Templeton, Adam Handling, Anna Haugh and Tom Griffiths. They have teamed up with OtherClub boss Oli Coles to create a social media challenge in which chefs challenge each other to cook meals at home with the best possible ingredients.

This is important as a key part of the challenge is the ingredients, which need to be as nutritious as possible because the dishes will be delivered to front-line NHS staff to keep them going.

Not only that but the initiative aims to get other chefs around the country involved too, which supports local food suppliers, keeps kitchens functioning and boosts the moral of everyone taking part or watching the creations take shape.

The scheme is helping to supply NHS workers with nearly 3000 meals a week, as well as raising a significant amount of money too.

Virtual Solutions

Update 17/04/2020 – Coronavirus Briefing for the Hospitality Industry

Virtual Solutions recently made a series of social media posts asking hotels, restaurants and other businesses to share their crisis management tips. Creativity and innovation are often driven by adversity and COVID-19 has certainly caused some adversity. Especially in the hospitality industry.

But as a result we’ve also seen some incredible stories of resilience. Many businesses have been forced to adapt and create a crisis management strategy either on the fly or by activating one they implemented some time ago. Although it’s reasonable to assume they always hoped they’d never need to use it!

Sharing Stories of Resilience

We’ve seen these amazing stories shared on social media or read about them in various articles. But there are also so many more stories to tell and lessons to learn as this pandemic goes on. These stories deserve a platform and the wisdom behind every crisis management strategy deserves to be shared with the world. This is so that others can benefit and potentially adopt it themselves.

Therefore, we’d like to encourage any hoteliers or restaurant owners reading this to get in touch with us and share your crisis management stories and tips. Or even your ideas and the stories you may have heard from others. What have you done to adapt and navigate these troubled waters? It could be practical plans regarding staffing levels, your marketing strategy or ways you’ve helped your customers.

The reason we ask is we’d like to compile each of these crisis management strategies into an article we’re creating. This article is intended to help the hospitality industry recover and will offer advice that everyone will be able to benefit from.

We understand that hospitality is also a competitive industry, and some may be reluctant to share their secrets with those they compete against. But in response to that we’d say think about our industry on the whole and all the people it employs. All the families it supports and customers who rely upon it. It’s an industry under attack from a shared opponent in the form of COVID-19 and the virus does not discriminate.

This is a time when those who work in hospitality need to unite and help one another. We all need to do what we can to kick-start our industry ready for a time without coronavirus. If the industry is strong then all within it can prosper.

Get in touch with your crisis management strategies here media@virtualsolutionsglobal.com

Until then stay safe.

Virtual Solutions

Update 16/04/2020 – Coronavirus Briefing for the Hospitality Industry

Our past two Coronavirus Briefings offered some reasons to be cheerful, the main one being that people in self-isolation will miss the hospitality industry and will look forward to it’s return. In fact, they’re likely to overindulge a little bit too, enjoying the freedom of having restaurants and hotels back in their lives.

For this reason, and since the pandemic began, we’ve advised our readers to continue marketing themselves. To make sure they remain in their customer’s thoughts. We want them to be the venues that customers daydream about during lockdown, then rush out to once social distancing measures are relaxed.

New Developments

So, with the above in mind we’re happy to report that the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) agrees. Not only that, they believe the hospitality industry (within the wider travel and tourism sectors) will be instrumental to the UK’s economic recovery when the time comes.

Essentially, people rushing to their favourite restaurant with family for that meal they’ve been dreaming about for weeks. And those who are finally able to meet up with their friends for brunch and cocktails, or finally being able to book that special night away they had to cancel and postpone will save the day.

These are the ones who will be leading the charge and getting Britain’s economy moving. A similar thing may happen across other countries too. It’s fair to say that the hospitality industry has been one that’s been hit the hardest by the global crisis that is COVID-19.

However, the surge in people making up for lost time may also lead to the hospitality industry being the driving force for financially recovery. There hasn’t been a time in recent memory when people have been unable to just go out for dinner or away for the few nights whenever they wanted. These are things people may have taken for granted before, but no longer.

Coronavirus may have given customers a new appreciation for hospitality and a sense of gratitude which may translate well from an economic standpoint. It also needs to be the case, now more than ever.

Virtual Solutions

Update 15/04/2020 – Coronavirus Briefing for the Hospitality Industry

Reasons To Be Cheerful – Part 2

Last week we started this Reasons To Be Cheerful series, the idea was to offer a few reasons why those who work in the hospitality sector have lots to be positive about. That is once coronavirus has been dealt with of course, but we’re also including some of the positive steps that are happening right now.

Supporting the NHS – and Our Industry

As we reported last week in our Hospitality Highlights, over 20,000 beds from hotels are now being used as makeshift hospital beds. This allows those who are nearly clear from the virus to convalesce under the watchful eye of our NHS, but allows the hospitals to be prioritised for those in urgent need.

This not only helps support our NHS, those recovering (and suffering) from coronavirus, but it also allows hotels, and hotel staff, to stay in work and provide a vital service. This means many people can still go to their normal places of employment and help care for others. Something those who work in hospitality, like those who work for the NHS are naturally gifted at. It also will mean some hotels remain profitable too.

Working Safely

It’s been reported here and overseas that many restaurant chains are considering opening again to provide a takeaway service once their staff have access to vital PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). The government is understandably prioritising health workers with this equipment first, but after that they will also start equipping private companies.

McDonald’s have been closed in the UK since March but have recently reopened fully in the United States upon receiving this equipment. While we have no official communication from the company yet, but it’s reasonable to assume that the UK will soon follow, and hopefully, other chains will also adopt this approach too. Allowing certain parts of the industry to return to work safely. But of course, it will be in a limited capacity, in McDonald’s care this means drive-through only.

But let’s not forget, this is still a win for those wanting to work, companies, and those of us who are partial to a Big Mac. We don’t know about you, but we’ve really missed Big Macs.

If we think of anymore reasons to be cheerful, we’ll communicate them in our future blog posts. Until then stay home and stay safe.

Virtual Solutions

Update 09/04/2020 – Coronavirus Briefing for the Hospitality Industry

Reasons To Be Cheerful – Part 1

We’re sure by this point ‘lockdown’ due to coronavirus is starting to feel habitual. We’d use the word normal, but we know that term is too flippant, after all this virus has put many of us in the hospitality industry in financial difficulty. Where the UK government’s financial aid is appreciated, much of it doesn’t go live until June. And we have concerns in the here and now.

We’ve been providing strategies practical strategies for businesses to get through the coronavirus pandemic since it began. But today we’d like to do something a little different. We’d like to offer you a few reasons to be cheerful, spread over a couple of posts. We’ve said before that COVID-19 is a temporary blip and will one day be a distant memory, but that hasn’t stopped it giving us sleepless nights while it’s here.

Claiming it’s only a temporary problem is easy to say, but that doesn’t make it any less frightening now. The ramifications of it may continue to impact some businesses long after the pandemic has ended. We’ve discussed how businesses can prepare for life without coronavirus in earlier blogs, but right now what do we have to feel positive about?

Here’s what:

‘Bouncing Back’ is Inevitable

The hospitality industry is bound to bounce back from this crisis. That’s because it’s different to many other commercial industries. It’s populated by people who are adept at caring for and helping others. This type of attitude and altruistic style of working will allow those who work within it to not only pick each themselves up, but each other too.

Here’s another reason – People miss it. That’s right, people are already desperate to go out for dinner and book a night away in a nice hotel for a treat. The public will have a new appreciation for restaurants and hotels when this is all over. We all may have taken going out for dinner for granted before this virus. People are going to want to make up for lost time. When lockdown is over, prepare for a stampede of customers who are desperate to see you again!

Priorities May Have Changed

We actually believe there will be a ‘new normal’ after all of this. Many people today have never known a situation like coronavirus in their lifetimes. We’ve all grown up in a time of plenty when getting what we want is just a drive or a click away. Going without will be a shock to the system for lots of people and that will encourage them to change their perspective. Many families are also separated during this time due to social distancing policies. Once they can get together again, they will be keen to celebrate and that means going out, ordering in and doing something special. But not only that, making a point to do so more.

Check back next week for Part 2. Until then stay home and stay safe.

Virtual Solutions

Update 08/04/2020 – Coronavirus Briefing for the Hospitality Industry

Earlier in this blog we posted various pieces of advice about what hotels can do during the coronavirus pandemic. This advice included the following:

  • How to reassure guests
  • How to prepare for a pandemic
  • What to do during a pandemic
  • How a hotel (or any business) can prepare for life after coronavirus

We are now at the point where only the last two bullet points are still relevant. After all, nobody is staying in hotels while social distancing is in effect. That is unless they are being isolated there.

After this advice we focused our efforts on expanding on the last two bullet points, offering practical advice and reminding those who follow our blog that COVID-19 is temporary. Life will return to normal; our industry will bounce back.

Be sure to take the necessary precautions, but make sure you’re preparing for the day when coronavirus is no longer a hindrance to business.

What Can We Learn Now?

But what of the first two points? We’re sure we weren’t the only ones giving the above advice, a lot of it was common sense or specially curated marketing tips for hotels and restaurants, but how much of it was of value?

Since making our recommendations, particularly the first two points;

  • How to reassure guests
  • How to prepare for a pandemic

We’ve come to realise how important advice like this was. The following insights into customer feelings have been shared by EInsights. Each shows what customers felt about how various hotels handled the beginning of the pandemic:

“Our kids love the outdoor pool (it’s heated during the cooler months) although it was closed on our last visit due to the novel coronavirus.”

“Great hotel but unfortunately not the best time due to coronavirus.”

“Staff very friendly and helpful. At the time of traveling the hotel had 10% occupancy due to coronavirus.”

“There was a staff coughing at breakfast. She wore a mask, but was very worried because it was the new coronavirus.”

“I would have liked to have been notified that a previous guest was diagnosed with coronavirus.”

“During check-in, we were handed a piece of paper dated the 24th January informing us that the hotel had had a guest staying infected with the highly contagious coronavirus.”

The purpose of this blog post isn’t to point out that Virtual Solutions were right to share the advice we did, after all, it was curated from experts within and outside of the company. But to stress the value of blogs like this as a source of information.

We will make sure that everything we share with you is practical, useful and helps you recover from this pandemic. Please continue to check in with us as we update it. It’s our mission to support hospitality in any way we can, and right now that means by sharing this advice with you.

Update 02/04/2020 – Coronavirus Briefing for the Hospitality Industry

The Hotel Management Agreement and Force Majeure

Let’s refer to the above two things as HMA and FM for simplicity.

HMA is a legal agreement between the hotel owner and its operator to regulates the FM throughout the business, and its implications. But what is FM?

FM stands for ‘Force Majeure’ which was originally derived from French law and relates to commercial contracts that fall under common law. Still with us?

In times like these, operators will be of the belief that FM should be covered by any agreements HMA represents, and therefore covers the hotel against global pandemics like COVID-19.

This essentially gives them a pass on their targets, as hitting them is unrealistic in this current climate. The events are simply out of the operators control and therefore they shouldn’t be held responsible.

Owners of hotels may take a different stance, arguing that it all depends on the affected region and won’t necessarily agree with the operator’s view. Instead, they may examine their FM on a case by case basis, rather than simply allowing it to be covered by HMA.

So Is Coronavirus Considered FM?

As we said above it can depend on the country, but in the UK an operator “must demonstrate that it’s performance has become legally or physically impossible”, as opposed to just hard to deliver. We can all agree that COVID-19 falls under this category. Public spaces are closed by law since Boris Johnson’s address in late March.

It’s worth pointing out that this also applies to any territories that utilise English common law. So this will apply to many English owned hotels abroad too.

What Does This All Mean?

The first major takeaway from all this is that owners and operators need to review their agreements together. Coronavirus is an unprecedented event and many organisations will not have prepared for it, but likely will never make that mistake again.

Update 25/03/2020 – Coronavirus Briefing for the Hospitality Industry

 What We Can Learn From The SARS Outbreak

Coronavirus or COVID-19 shares many similarities with the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Like coronavirus, SARS also originated and spread across the Asia-Pacific region, causing chaos and turmoil wherever it was encountered. In 2003 it caused a massive disruption to tourism and hospitality in the region, not dissimilar to what we’re seeing today.

The virus was contained after 4 months, but it took 18 months for the region to stabilise, and that includes the hospitality industry. Although it took less than a year for that to bounce back. Even after this, pockets of SARS would pop up again here and there. But when it did it was met with swift and effective resistance.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 was not contained as quickly as SARS and authorities (and governments) all over the world have been criticised for not acting swiftly or decisively enough. This means the timescales above are no longer comparable on a global scale, but they could be when applied to individual regions.

Some locations may be affected differently or more heavily than others. But the first signs of recovery are appearing in China where the virus originated. Countries like the UAE and Saudi Arabia were also quick to act and have seen less of an impact than other nations.

What Does This Mean For Businesses?

For businesses such as hoteliers and restaurant owners, how soon life returns to normal will be directly tied to wherever you’re based and how hard your region has been hit. By this time many businesses in the hospitality sector will have implemented their contingency plans, but our advice is to prepare for the future rather than wallowing in the present.

As we’ve said before on this blog, in time, life will return to normal. From a business point of view, it’s just as vital to be ready for that as it is to take precautions now. Use this time to take stock and re-evaluate your budgets, plans and marketing strategies. Train staff while times are quiet and gear your marketing around the anticipation of normality.

We know fromSARS that these viruses do not last forever, and your customers will be missing their favourite hotels and restaurants. Tap into this and remember scarcity creates value. Keep your social media channels active, showing people what they are missing. When normality returns, your customers will indeed be champing at the bit to spend money. Plant the seeds for this now.

Update 24/03/2020 – Coronavirus Briefing for the Hospitality Industry

UK Population Told to Stay Home

The UK Government has introduced strict new measures to combat the spread of the virus, which require all people in non-essential roles to stay at home.

The new measures state that people may only leave their home to exercise once a day, to travel to and from work when absolutely necessary, to shop for essential items and to fulfil any medical care needs. The police have been given the power to enforce these rules through the use of fines and dispersal of gatherings.

Businesses selling non-essential goods have been told to shut, and gatherings in public of more than two people who do not live together will be prohibited.

The businesses which are not required to close include:

  • Restaurants, Cafes and Work Canteens for Delivery and Take-Away services
  • Supermarkets and Premises Selling Food (including Market Stalls)
  • Health Shops (such as Pharmacies)
  • Petrol Stations, Garages and Car Rental Businesses
  • Laundrettes and Dry Cleaners
  • Pet Shops
  • Corner Shops, Newsagents and Post Offices
  • Banks

Under current direction, Hotels, Hostels, Campsites and Caravan Parks must also close unless key workers need to stay there, or if people staying there are unable to return to their own primary places of residence.

Restaurant Closures

Another week another round of coronavirus news relating to the hospitality industry. Although this week the news seems a little brighter for our sector. As we’ve also reported in Virtual Solutions Hospitality Highlights, restaurant chains like McDonald’s, Nando’s and others have now completely shut their doors in an effort to help contain coronavirus. McDonald’s had previously stated they would keep their drive-thrus open, but these have also now been closed too.

Social Distancing Measures

The government is now considering measures to enforce social distancing after many UK residents ignored the concerns over the sunny Mother’s Day weekend. Bars and restaurants may now need to close as a legal requirement where previously it had been made by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson as a suggestion. We will keep you updated as this changes.

Support for The Hospitality Industry

Last week we reported that the UK government had committed to providing £330 billion in aid to the Hospitality Industry. But it’s now been reported that they will cover 80% of workers’ salaries, which will be welcome news to any workers who have been sent home due to their places of employment needing to close.

As the government considers stricter social distancing measures it seems likely that more and more restaurants will close, meaning this money will be needed by more people. It could be suggested that the government’s aid (to both businesses and workers) may have influenced decisions to close. Company’s may not have wanted to do this previously, at least not until the government confirmed what the aid will look like.

Aid has also come from other sources too. Hospitality Action for example have confirmed they will be offering a grant of £250 to affected families. So those who qualify for the governments scheme may also be eligible for this. Finally, the Co-op retail group have also started a recruitment drive focused on affected job seekers. So those who may have lost their hospitality jobs will be prioritised in an effort to find them new work. This should help at least 5000 people.

Update 23/03/2020 – Coronavirus Briefing for the Hospitality Industry

Restaurant Closures

Another week another round of coronavirus news relating to the hospitality industry. Although this week the news seems a little brighter for our sector. As we’ve also reported in Virtual Solutions Hospitality Highlights, restaurant chains like McDonald’s, Nando’s and others have now completely shut their doors in an effort to help contain coronavirus. McDonald’s had previously stated they would keep their drive-thrus open, but these have also now been closed too.

Social Distancing Measures

The government is now considering measures to enforce social distancing after many UK residents ignored the concerns over the sunny Mother’s Day weekend. Bars and restaurants may now need to close as a legal requirement where previously it had been made by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson as a suggestion. We will keep you updated as this changes

Support for The Hospitality Industry

Last week we reported that the UK government had committed to providing £330 billion in aid to the Hospitality Industry. But it’s now been reported that they will cover 80% of workers’ salaries, which will be welcome news to any workers who have been sent home due to their places of employment needing to close.

As the government considers stricter social distancing measures it seems likely that more and more restaurants will close, meaning this money will be needed by more people. It could be suggested that the government’s aid (to both businesses and workers) may have influenced decisions to close. Company’s may not have wanted to do this previously, at least not until the government confirmed what the aid will look like.

Aid has also come from other sources too. Hospitality Action for example have confirmed they will be offering a grant of £250 to affected families. So those who qualify for the governments scheme may also be eligible for this. Finally, the Co-op retail group have also started a recruitment drive focused on affected job seekers. So those who may have lost their hospitality jobs will be prioritised in an effort to find them new work. This should help at least 5000 people.

Update 19/03/2020 – Coronavirus Briefing for the Hospitality Industry

Since starting this blog over a week ago the UK and many other countries around the world have gone into lockdown, locally, nationally and internationally. The pandemic has already affected over 2000 people directly and countless more indirectly. The blows to the hospitality sector sadly keep coming, but as our recent blog post stated, this blip won’t last forever.

With that in mind here are a few ideas to help protect your business during coronavirus lockdown:

Reassure Any Customers You Meet

Chances are you’ll still need to interact with customers at some point. Take the take to reassure them about the situation in general and your own measures for containing the virus. This is what they’ll want to hear. Also take advantage of your social media channels to do the same thing.

Treat Customers Like Royalty

If a customer has come to visit you during lockdown then that’s a testament to how highly they regard you. Don’t give them reasons to doubt. They’ve taken a risk coming out, reward them for it. Business may be slow at the moment so make sure every customer gets plenty of focus and care.

Upsell!

Not only should you upsell to try and increase your profits during this tough time, but your customers may not be able to go out as often as they’d like during this pandemic. They may want to let loose a little and push the boat out. They may be willing to spend a little more than normal. It may help them feel better and stay positive.

Take Advantage of Takeaway Meals

Are you a restaurant that needs to close its doors? You may not have a choice but that doesn’t mean you need to close your kitchen. Offer a takeaway service while people are on lockdown. Shopping for food is more difficult at the moment, some shelves are bare, and people may not feel safe walking around supermarkets anyway. Provide customers with somewhere they can go to order food as a takeaway, even if it’s not something you usually offer.

Remind Customers about Gift Vouchers

There’s a movement online presently encouraging people to buy vouchers to support their favourite restaurants during this crisis. This will help restaurants earn money while allowing them to use their resources at a later date. You can benefit from this too as well as supporting the industry.

Here are some other helpful tips:

  1. Try to arrange a payment holiday on any loan or tax payments.
  2. Ask your landlord or building manager if there’s any leeway.
  3. Adjust your arrangements with suppliers.
  4. Claim all subsidies or benefits you may be entitled to.
  5. See if staff can take their holiday time now.
  6. Make adjustments to your opening hours.
  7. Reduce the items on your menu.
  8. Postpone any expansive projects you may have had planned until the virus has passed.

Update 18/03/2020 – Coronavirus Briefing for the Hospitality Industry

UK Hospitality Industry Faces “Thousands of Closures”

The news comes in response to the lack of footfall and bookings throughout the UK hospitality industry, forcing hotels and restaurants to close. Or at least function on minimal capacity. This has forced some businesses to make tough decisions such as send staff home to save money.

In response to the crisis that the virus has wrought on the hospitality sector, the UK government has pledged £330 billion in aid. Although this may not be enough to stem the damage to some smaller companies or compensate workers who are unable to earn a living.

Dubai Government Close all Bars and Restaurants

The Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing in Dubai issued a statement about the restriction saying, “ In line with Dubai Government precautionary measures to ensure the health and safety of its residents and visitors; Dubai Tourism notifies all bars, pubs and lounges to close with immediate effect from today (Monday 16 march 2020) till the end of March.”

They have confirmed that restaurants will still be able to provide takeaways for their customers, allowing them to continue to stay open and earn money.

European Union Ban All ‘None Essential Travel’ For 30 Days

In an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus the EU has issued a travel ban for 30 days. Asking travellers to limit their movements to essential travel only. A representative said

Are There Lessons Hotels Can Learn from China’s Coronavirus Response?

China and the rest of the Far East were hit first by coronavirus, in fact it stuck quickly and hard before many nations in that region were able to formulate a plan of action. Just like everywhere else in the world, their hospitality industry suffered a slump in bookings alongside widespread cancellations.

But there has been light at the end of the tunnel. While the rest of the world ‘batters down the hatches’ in preparation the pandemic’s impact, China and the Far East are already starting their road to recovery. The hospitality industry is slowly showing signs of life which is encouraging for the rest of the world.

If this region (which was arguably hit the hardest) can begin to recover in such a short space of time after containing the virus, then it means we all can. After all, coronavirus is a blip. There will soon come a day when it’s a distant memory

Update 17/03/2020 – Coronavirus Briefing for the Hospitality Industry

Government warns UK to avoid pubs and public spaces

In a controversial press conference that took place on the 16th March 2020 regarding coronavirus, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson advised the public to avoid pubs, restaurants and other public places in an effort to stop the spread of the virus.

While the government believes this will be an effective way to stop people catching and spreading coronavirus it could be potentially damaging to the hospitality industry. Restaurants, pubs and hotels rely on footfall and reservations to make a profit. If this stops abruptly then it could have major ramifications for those of us who work in the industry.

The government has promised a £12 billion relief package to support the industry. But has advised this money will be provided when the virus “is contained”. While this would indeed ease the pressure on businesses when given, a promise of help at a later date does little to reassure businesses that are struggling today.

Marketing Tips for Hospitality Sector

As self-isolation becomes the norm across the UK, businesses in the hospitality sector will be feeling the pinch more than ever. Here are some tips to help as the footfall starts to decline:

Reassess Your Demographics

When using modern digital marketing methods such as PPC and social media, businesses are able to control who our target audience is. Use this control now. Are you spending budget on appealing to international customers during a travel ban? If so, then why not allocate this budget to domestic customers instead?

Do you attract business customers holding conferences? Remember, many companies are encouraging their staff to work from home. This also may be wasted budget. Could it be put to better use elsewhere? When life returns to normal (and it will) then by all means target each of these types of travellers again, but in the here and now it’s important to get your priorities in order.

Send the Right Messages

Language is always a very important tool in marketing, but during a health crisis it becomes even more important. Last week KFC needed to pause their ‘Finger Lickin’’ campaign amid accusations of insensitivity, despite that slogan being associated with the company for decades.

Audit your own messages. Does something need updating or pausing until after this pandemic has passed? Your choice of words is powerful so focus your messaging on the things that are most important to people at this time. Words like clean, isolated, staycation, remote, flexible cancellation are popular at the moment. Utilise them, such a simple change in strategy may help keep the lights on for a few weeks.

Also be sure to update your channels with the answers to questions different customers may have. Create blog content explaining certain policies and tips in detail. Do customers keep asking you about a particular scenario? Then do what you can to assuage this fear, then anticipate what questions will come next and repeat this process. Look at this very blog as an example.

Be Flexible

Your customer’s concerns are very real. We’re living in an uncertain time and customers are likely to be acting more erratically and whimsically than before. Remember to be patient with them, more so than normal. Try to understand they may be worried about money or the welfare of a loved one. See what you can to make life easier for them, even if it means going without in the short-term. They will remember your kindness.

This situation will blow over but be proactive until it does. Put your customers first when you can but also remember to make sensible decisions when it comes to health. There is a highly contagious virus doing the rounds. Your business may seemingly have come to a temporary standstill, but there’s no reason to let that impact your digital marketing strategy.

Grubhub Suspends Restaurant Fees

In response to the coronavirus outbreak, takeaway platform Grubhub has announced it is temporarily suspending its fee collection in an effort to help restaurants stay profitable. The amount that Grubhub is owed from restaurants stands at over $100 million. While the move is only temporary the company hopes by doing this, they will take some of the financial pressure off restaurants during the global pandemic.

Grubhub also relies on restaurants for their own trade, and damage to the industry is also potentially worrying for them too. If a restaurant was to go out of business this could mean the loss of a client for them. Matt Maloney, Grubhub founder and CEO said, “They (the restaurants) have been amazing long-term partners for us, and we wanted to help them in their time of need. Our business is their business, so this was an easy decision for us to make.”

Saudi Arabia Closes All Restaurants

The kingdom of Saudi Arabia has ordered all cafes and restaurants in the country to be closed until further notice. The order is designed to stop the spread of coronavirus by preventing unnecessary public gatherings

Update 16th March 2020 – Getting Ready for Recovery

Those representing the tourism industry in Australia have said their country (and by extension the rest of the world) need to “be ready for recovery”. They have stressed that coronavirus is indeed a blip, and once contained and treated, will be remembered as such.

Tourism Australia host an annual conference called ‘Destination Australia’ where threats and trends to the industry are discussed in detail. Taking place today, the 12th March 2020, coronavirus dominated proceedings.

But the conference ended on a hopeful note with the suggestion that the world’s travel and tourism will “bounce back” once the virus is no-more. It’s expected that the industry “will recover as sharply as it fell” as travellers rearrange their trips and make up for lost time.

At Virtual Solutions we also subscribe to this view. The most difficult part for those of us in the hospitality industry will be to endure the crisis as it happens. But we will come out of it intact. Coronavirus will not hold us back forever.

Further Advice

But while the virus is still prevalent and becomes more so, here are some more tips to help your business get through the pandemic from a financial point of view:

Reorganise Your Expenses

You’ve likely already done your budget for the coming few weeks, but coronavirus may have changed some aspects. Go over your costs again to see what savings can be made. It may surprise you. On the other hand, coronavirus may totally pass you by, but either way be prepared.

Review Your Staffing Levels

Labour is always a business’s biggest expense and it’s likely to be the thing that’s affected the most by coronavirus. This is something all hotels need to be prepared for. Any rotas that were done before this crisis need to be examined. Where can savings be made and what’s the safest way to move forward?

Be Ready for Negative Flow

Hopefully coronavirus won’t impact you, but if it does be prepared to deal with the effects of negative flow. Has your hotel ever faced this before? What would you do if your revenue halved? Consider each eventuality, it could happen, and even if it’s temporary it will still cause concern. What’s your crisis plan?

Reassess Your Vendors

Now may be the perfect time to reassess your arrangements with third party suppliers. Do you still need them all? What may be wasted or something you can put on hiatus? At the very least it may be time to renegotiate your contracts. They may be feeling the squeeze too, so getting a favourable deal may be within reach.

Upcoming Training

A health crisis can put a hotel’s training needs in perspective. It may be worth cancelling anything that doesn’t either deliver a prioritised ROI or benefit the present situation. Once this crisis is over then normal service can resume.

Update 10/03/2020 – Government Support for the Hospitality Industry

Businesses in the hospitality sector have called on the UK government to lend them further support during the coronavirus crisis following a slump in sales. Cities like London, Birmingham and Manchester have all reported a dip in “casual custom” since the virus became international news and many businesses believe there is more the government can do to support them during this challenging period.

As the virus spreads, and the misinformation regarding it does too, businesses that work in the hospitality industry are likely to continue to feel the pinch for some time to come. This could be disastrous to many, especially to those who may have been relying on this quarter to stay profitable, and or even in business at all.

It’s believed that assistance could come in the form of a VAT or general tax break. Or landlords could be compensated to allow businesses a break from their ground and site rent.

However, the government have confirmed they have anticipated such a request but will not be considering how they can support businesses until the UK has moved out of the “containment phase”. This means the priority is to stop the spread of coronavirus first, then the damage can be assessed and resolved accordingly.

While the government’s response is unlikely to reassure those who are opening empty tills or suffering from a lack of bookings, it is at least something. While it may not help in the short-term, any bailouts or financial support to businesses later may be the difference between remaining solvent or not. Let’s just hope it’s enough.

Update 09/03/2020 – Panic and Misinformation

As discussed earlier in this blog, we will be keeping up to date with and changes and updates regarding coronavirus as this situation unfolds. We will be adding to this blog with breaking news, changes and anything else that we feel is relevant. As reported by various outlets all over the world, there has been a noticeable slump in restaurant bookings. Sadly, it appears that things may be about to get worse before they get better, as panic, and in some cases hysteria sets in.

Although we at Virtual Solutions base our opinions on the advice of experts and therefore, we believe that this virus, and the impact from it, are temporary problems. The hospitality industry will recover and 2020 will not be defined by the coronavirus. After all, despite being highly contagious, the virus has so far only been shown to be potentially fatal to those of advanced age and those who suffer with pre-existing health conditions. Namely conditions that effect the respiratory system. Meaning to many of us, it would simply result in a nasty chest infection and flu at the worst. For the healthiest amongst us, it may simply be a mild inconvenience.

We are convinced that this issue is indeed not as dire as some areas of the media would have us believe. In the UK this week there has been a reported shortage of toilet paper and cleansing hand gel, despite the symptoms of coronavirus not actually resulting in anything that would call for an abundance of loo roll! It’s a virus that effects our chests and breathing, not our digestive tract or stomach. It’s also been confirmed that frequent use of warm water and soap is far more effective than hand gel. Yet the misinformation has continued to be spread faster than the virus itself.

The beer brand Corona have confirmed their sales have slumped completely, giving them the worst quarter in over a decade, as people associate the beer with the virus. Despite the beer being nothing to do with coronavirus, the fact that the beer is called ‘Corona’ has seemingly been enough to deter people from buying it. Unfortunately, this is the level of misinformation those who work in the hospitality industry will need to put up with until this crisis passes. Many ordinary people get their information from sensationalised tabloid newspapers or word of mouth. Historically, neither have a reliable source of information for health concerns.

We may be best referring those we interact with to more credible sources, in an effort to counter the misinformation, and this includes our customers. It’s frustrating, and it may not help at all, but as hospitality business owners it may be all we can do. And any control or influence we have, should be used to spread the facts about coronavirus, rather than continue to circulate the myths.

What Else can Hotels Do?

While doing our best to curtail the false information and panic surrounding coronavirus is one thing, we may only be able to influence those who already follow our social media channels or visit our establishments regularly. We can only do so much to fight back against it though. But we can control how WE respond as business owners.

Here are Virtual Solutions tips on what else hotel owners can do while this situation is ongoing:

Don’t Buy into the Hysteria

Stick to the facts, don’t panic buy certain items, engage in misinformation (either verbally or from a PR standpoint). But do stay aware of the news and latest updates.

Don’t Do Anything to Suggest there’s a Problem with your Hotel

For example, don’t offer broad discounts in an effort to attract guests. Keep it ‘business as usual’ for the most part. Coronavirus may be something that comes and goes without any impact on you or anyone you know. If you start slashing your prices, people will ask why. It’s more likely to deter potential customers during a time of panic than attract them.

Continue Marketing (Do Not Cut Your Budget)

Again, keep it business as usual. If you decide to cut down on your marketing during this period because “people aren’t going to book during this crisis” then it may well become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Your competitors will reap the rewards, especially those who do continue to market themselves in the face of coronavirus. Remain competitive and don’t become complacent.

Maintain Standards and Service

If you do decide to make tactical savings, only do so when your bookings take a noticeable slump. Remember, they may not! But if they do, only make savings to areas that won’t impact standards and service levels. We don’t want customers to notice. Maintain the same level of quality you would at any other time.

Practice Good Hygiene

As we said earlier in the blog, this is now more important then ever. Hotel owners and managers should be more alert and hygiene focused than ever before. Your customers will also be in a heightened state regarding health and safety too. Give them reasons to relax at your hotel instead of reasons to panic.

As a company that operates within the Hospitality and Restaurant Industries, and one which has a considerable following, Virtual Solutions as a company feel it’s important for us to address the current global situation that is coronavirus.

The purpose of this post (and any subsequent updates we upload) is to inform those in the industry as to the facts about the virus. While nobody at Virtual Solutions claims to have any medical experience or qualifications in this arena, we will be drawing from official sources. Anything we post here must and will be a demonstrable fact, sourced from legitimate and trustworthy channels.

As this virus is now dominating the media, we feel it’s now important to acknowledge it in a sensible and cautious way. Then as a community we can track the scope and impact of coronavirus and share up-to-date information on how best to avoid it, treat it and halt any further spread.

We want to share this information from the perspective of a hotel (what does this mean for you) and aim to provide hoteliers with the best advice we can. As well as any changes or developments as this global situation unfolds. We fully expect coronavirus to have an impact on our industry, as it will on so many others, but we hope to seek out and disseminate information that lessens this impact.

We will also update this article and bank of data as more relevant details and updates emerge

What is Coronavirus?

 COVID-19 is an illness that can present like flu but also affects the lungs and airways. The illness originated in China but has spread to other countries since it’s discovery. While the illness should not be taken lightly by anyone due to it being potentially fatal, the majority of fatalities have consisted of those who are elderly or have had pre-existing medical conditions. Especially conditions that affect the respiratory system. That being said the virus is highly contagious, but treatable.

How to Recognise Coronavirus

The symptoms of coronavirus include:

  • Persistent cough
  • High temperature (running a fever)
  • Shortness of breath (difficulty breathing)
  • General flu-like symptoms

Showing any of these symptoms do not necessarily mean an individual (i.e. guest or member of staff) has the coronavirus. The symptoms are similar to other illnesses that share traits with flu or even the common cold. But should all symptoms be shown together then medical advice should be sought.

The above information has been sourced from the NHS website and can be viewed here.

Crisis Management – For Hotels

The hospitality industry has already felt the ramifications of coronavirus, bookings and travel in general have stuttered since the virus became international news. Supply chains have also been disrupted.

Naturally the health of your guests and staff is paramount, but legal concerns also need consideration. Remember; your business could be liable if a guest contracts coronavirus on your premises, or if you were responsible in some way.

While health and safety should always be something a hotel treats as a priority, during times like this additional vigilance is needed. Not doing so could have dire consequences for that organisation, should a guest decide to take legal action.

In regard to crisis management please find our advice below:

Prioritise safety under any circumstances – This is what needs to come first, over everything else. For many hotels coronavirus won’t be a concern, it’s something you simply need to be aware of. Hopefully it will pass us by as the contagion winds down. But if not then safety needs to become paramount over profit. If this isn’t the case, then short-term damage could become long-term damage. It’s not worth the risk.

 Adapt and repurpose – If you are affected by the virus in any way and have put safety first, you may be feeling helpless and concerned about your business during this crisis. Even if the worst happens i.e. you’ve had to close for a period of time, or if bookings slump as a result of the virus, there’s always something productive you can do. Take the opportunity to do a deep clean or come up with some fresh marketing strategies. Your hotel will outlast the coronavirus.

Keep communications open and honest – If the virus impacts your hotel in any way make sure to communicate openly and honestly with your guests. Don’t try to sweep issues under the carpet. This is especially true during times like this. If your hotel is affected by the virus, and there is a present danger to your guests, then don’t try to contain it in secrecy. Be transparent and help your guests steer clear of the virus. Do this immediately to reduce the risk of contagion. Not doing so could lead to disaster.

How to Keep Customers Informed and Healthy

 Of course, what to do with customers depends on where your hotel is and the proximity to affected areas. If coronavirus breaks out in your hotel then the first thing you need to do is seek advice from medical services.

They may advise you to send guests home or affected guests and non-affected guests may need to commit to self-isolation for their protection and the protection of others. Read more about this here.

What to Do with Staff

You cannot completely control what staff do on your premises, but you always have a degree of influence. Your staff are just as keen to avoid the risks of coronavirus as you are and will naturally heed any advice that keeps them safer at work.

Take Precautions

Employees arriving home from working in potentially infected area should visit the doctor before they return to work. This of course is to make sure they are free of the virus and will not bring it into your hotel.

Be Proactive

 Hopefully this will not be necessary, but create a crisis plan in case your business is affected. Map out the possible scenarios and how you can resolve each. Look at some of the stories in the news, how would you respond if that was your hotel? How could you lessen the blow? Act now.

Stress Regular Hygiene

This may sound obvious, but during this time hoteliers need to make hygiene an obsession. Coronavirus is incredibly contagious, but good hygiene can and does prevent it spreading. This virus doesn’t need to be an inevitability, it can be kept from the door by taking the most basic of precautions.

Absence

If an employee contacts coronavirus then they will need to remain at home until they are fully recovered. While staff being out of action is frustrating for any business, it beats having the virus in and around the hotel. Usual sick pay guidelines should take effect here, but of course this varies depending on the individual employees’ contract.

Below are some guidelines to help hotel owners understand more about which staff can work during this time:

Hotel staff cannot work in hotels if they:

  • Have left (excluding airport transfers) mainland China, Iran, northern Italy or the Republic of Korea in the last 14 days (they must self-isolate for 14 days from their departure). For more information, please see information on self-isolation
  • Have been in close contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus in the last 14 days (they must isolate themselves for 14 days after the date of last contact with the confirmed case).

If you develop symptoms within 14 days of being anywhere in a country or area of concern, or within 14 days of contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19, you should seek medical advice immediately

Bookings

Unfortunately, coronavirus is expected to cause significant disruption to the hospitality industry. Events, reservations and plans will be changed if not outright cancelled. People will be less willing to travel, especially to locations where the virus has been reported. While this is frustrating for many hotels and other businesses it may be a blessing in disguise. These factors may help get a handle on the virus and stop it spreading. The sooner it is contained and treated (in all the places it’s gained a foothold) then the sooner normal business can resume.

Some encouraging news comes from Tim Hentschel, who is the CEO of Hotel Planner, who has described coronavirus as simply a “blip” and he is encouraging investors to take advantage of the resulting consolidation in the travel industry. Once the virus has been contained and treated the industry may bounce back as a result of new and opportunistic investment.

Some Toughts (8)

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