London is currently occupied by a fraction of the normal density of tourists and workers, either is detrimental to the hospitality industry and both at the same time is bordering catastrophic.
The language being used above is considered and used to emphasise the danger that many hospitality businesses face in trying to operate at the moment in London.
The lack of tourists and workers are both a consequence of Covid-19 but that is where the similarities stop, there are also no similarities in a solution.
The government can do much to encourage workers back to their places of work in London, but can do little in the short term to bring any significant volume of tourists back.
UK Tourism – A near-total shutdown 2020
The scale of the downturn is reflected by The Office for National Statistics and VisitBritain where they quote: “From mid-March to mid-July, COVID-19 triggered a near-total shutdown in international tourism to/from the UK.” The current forecast states: “A decline of 73% in visits and a decline of 79% in spending.”
Given that any return to incoming tourism is dependant upon world events and global consumer confidence, the UK government can do little other than be seen to create a Covid safe UK.
UK Workplace – Return to city centres
Whilst the UK government can do almost nothing to help a return of tourists to London, yesterday the Commons Treasury Committee met to discuss ways of getting workers back to central London and other city centres.
The tone however was not positive as the Bank of England’s executive director for financial stability strategy and risk, Alex Brazier stated. “With Covid safe guidelines, it’s not possible to use office space – particularly in central London and dense places like that – with the intensity that we used to use it. So it’s actually not possible to bring lots of people back very suddenly.”
He went on to cast doubt on the effectiveness on the government’s current back to work campaign, saying it was “not possible” for a significant return to city centre workplaces this autumn due to Covid-19 guidelines, concerns over the health risks, and transport capacity issues.
“Because of those constraints I don’t think we can expect to see a sudden and sharp return of lots of people to the very dense office environments that we were used to. We should expect a more phased return depending on the public health outcomes that we’ll see over the coming weeks and months.”
The remarks come as the government tries to encourage more people back to work in workplaces across the country. Statistics still show however that movement into and around city centres remains substantially below pre-pandemic levels.
The Office for National Statistics report that circa 40% of workers across the UK remain working from home. The statistics vary by sector where IT for example sees 75% of workers doing so from home while only 14% in health care do so.
The hospitality industry is dependent upon city centres being busy, not just for independents based there but also for large groups where many have their key operational and profit centre locations.
Many workplaces and the foodservice operators that work alongside them have been working diligently throughout the current crisis to ready workplaces for the return of staff.
The preparation has been ongoing with not just the foodservice operators busy in doing so but also the consultants advising workplaces.
We have reported extensively throughout the Covid-19 crisis on initiatives to welcome people back into workplaces by catering businesses that provide foodservices for employers.
In one article catering consultant Tracey Fairclough gathered the thoughts of 23 leading caterers on how they were readying workplace catering. They were collectively adapting, evolving and innovating to support the rebooting of the UK economy, in the workplace.
Fairclough had previously gone through a similar exercise with 50 leading employers, many of whom were working with the caterers previously referred to above. Their priorities were ensuring workers return to a safe environment through minimising health risks.
Both articles were written a few months ago now, and despite the positive attitude of both employers and caterers to welcome back employees, plans so far seem unrequired and unrequited.
The current situation was possibly best illustrated when catering consultant Chris Stern wrote for us asking the question, what are we waiting for? Stern’s article asks questions and suggests some interesting answers.
A return to the workplace is now the biggest single factor in the hospitality industry recovery process and it needs to happen soon. The current mixed messaging from government needs to be addressed urgently and focus on getting results.
Given the success of Rishi Sunak’s Eat Out to Help Out initiative, maybe the Chancellor should be at the helm in steering people back to their workplace? He would certainly get our vote for the job, anyone else join us?
News from the hospitality and cratering industry is also being featured extensively in our Facebook and twitter social media accounts with the opportunity to engage with others in hospitality and share your views.
Return to city centres – 3 September 2020