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Time for a seat at the table

HOSPA CEO Jane Pendlebury looks forward to the reopening of hospitality, but calls for better representation in government as the approach to the sector remains mixed.

The UK is witnessing a tentative re-opening now that we are at the end of March. Monday 29th saw the end of the Stay At Home rule in England and the fresh ability to meet up in private gardens. Frustratingly, this lifting of restrictions does not include hospitality’s super clean and COVID safe premises until April 12th ‘at the earliest’. I am regularly amused and impressed by stories of pubs and restaurants creating spaces to allow customers to sit outdoors. Once again it shows the entrepreneurial spirit and determination to find ways to open up and generate some revenue. What was once a backyard used solely for storing bins and beer barrels has been cleaned up and tables installed. Outdoor eating and drinking opportunities have been created in car parks, fields, pavements, and children’s playgrounds. And why not? I have no doubt that the demand will be enormous, come 12th April.

Disappointing though, is the fact that self-contained accommodation is permitted to welcome guests whereas hotels have to wait another five weeks until 17th May ‘at the earliest’. It’s great news for serviced apartments and AirBnB, but why not hotels too? I do understand a lot of the decisions that our Government has made, but this only goes to highlight their lack of understanding of the diversity of the hospitality industry.

If indoor sports and leisure facilities are able to open in April, albeit with restrictions, it makes no sense that hotels and restaurants cannot serve customers inside. A minister for hospitality would be able to clearly explain the vast differences between a busy pub and a fine dining restaurant when it comes to social distancing and the propensity for the guests to behave differently as the evening progresses. All the hotels I have visited in the last year have, without exception, taken their hygiene levels to a whole new high, invested in all sorts of tech and made many operational alterations to minimise contact. So, it is all the more devastating that they cannot open for another six weeks. Once they do, most – especially coastal and rural resorts – should benefit from unusually high demand.

Thankfully, with the apparent success of our vaccine rollout, there really are lots of reasons to be optimistic. The HOSPA team are forging ahead with plans for HOSPACE 2021 on November 18th! Our members have encouraged us to ensure we plan ahead, making sure we maximise their networking opportunities. It now seems more important than ever to get together to discuss the bizarre experiences that the pandemic has forced us to experience! I am sure that the format of a lot of business meetings will change as a result of how normal a video call has become, but I am equally convinced that most of us cannot wait to see our industry friends and peers in person, and to catch up in a relaxed state over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine.

And talking of wine, those couples who have postponed and re-arranged their weddings will have to wait until June before they can have more than 30 in the room. You don’t need me to tell you to make sure you are ready. However, there are still opportunities for some to shout about the changes that have been made to welcome guests safely. Please bring back those marketing and revenue teams to help guarantee your popularity with the wider British public and to take advantage of all those people desperate to leave their homes and experience some of our wonderful hospitality.

Jane Pendlebury HOSPA CEO


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