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Nicholls marks one year Covid ‘anniversary’ – “We didn’t know it would be a tsunami”

Published:  21 January, 2021

UK Hospitality chief Kate Nicholls has renewed calls for additional government support a year on from her first strategy meetings with ministers at the beginning of the pandemic.

The impact from Covid-19 was immediate, Nicholls said. Travel restrictions were put in place and meetings were cancelled less than a week after those initial meetings.

No one however could have foreseen the “scale and level of the devastation and over a year of restrictions”, which are now still in force a full year after Covid 19’s first UK outbreaks.

Today is one year on from “My first govt [sic] meeting discussing the implications of the new disease on our tourism businesses. Knew it would affect us, didn’t know it would be a tsunami and that it would still be devastating a year on,” she said on Twitter.

“January was the only normal month of trading for hospitality and tourism last year – a year which saw overall revenue more than half and the UK’s 3rd largest export earner – overseas tourism £39bn – almost wiped out. We have to restart the businesses and the engine of growth.”

The comments, on Twitter, prompted a number of responses from users, including Wine and Spirit Trade Association boss Miles Beale.

“Yes, we do,” he responded to the comment above. “@wstauk is asking Chancellor @RishiSunak @hmtreasury @Jesse_Norman to: Cut excise duty on wines and spirits, extend the temporary VAT cut for hospitality, introduced last year, to March 2022, and broaden it to include alcoholic drinks.”

The comments follow calls from hospitality bosses urging Rishi Sunak to extend business support before the spring Budget.

Andy Lennox, founder & MD of Him Braai and Wonky Table restaurants said: “Hospitality can’t operate above Tier 2 – that is the very simple fact. We lose money operating in Tier 2 and above. So if it’s ‘Tier 4 and downwards from April’ there won’t be an industry on the other side unless there are substantial grants.”

Nicholls was also recently part of a meeting of the Business Advisory Council, where the role the hospitality industry can play in helping with logistics, venues and communication around vaccination programmes was discussed.

She also gave evidence to the APPG on Night Time Economy and the impact of Covid.

“This vital part of the economy [is] so critical for our major towns and cities – two-thirds of their revenue is generated after 6pm and since March, they have operated 12% of that.

“Spend in the night time economy is also a vital export earner – 61% of tourists visit restaurants, 42% pubs and 15% nightclubs and festivals spending £2.2bn a year. Tourism is our 3rd biggest export earner and it has been all but eliminated this year,” she said.