Guernsey Press Article, 27th April 2020:
SOME hotels hit by the lockdown cannot afford to claim from the States’ payroll co-funding scheme which is effectively blocking them by its requirements, said the heads of the Chamber of Commerce hospitality group.
Under the scheme, the States pay staff 80% of minimum wage, with the business expected to pay the balance.
‘This is extremely difficult for most businesses when they have zero revenue,’ said Alan Sillett, who shares the Chamber hospitality role with his wife, Aine.
He said the majority of hotels do not support the payroll scheme, ‘which with zero income (minus zero in many cases when fixed costs are included) is difficult to find this money, especially having just come out of the winter season’.
‘Some of the larger, well-established hospitality businesses will be able to survive for a while, but with very hefty losses,’ said Mrs Sillett.
‘The small to medium businesses will be very nervous about how long this forced closure period carries on for, especially those with limited cash reserves.
‘We are hearing of some issues with banks that are not being too helpful with regards to loans.
‘We do not want to lose a large part of the island’s ability to attract visitors, i.e. quality restaurants and hotels.
‘The tourism industry is so important with many direct and indirect benefits to the island.’
Mr and Mrs Sillett run the Duke of Normandie Hotel so have direct experience of people cancelling their bookings.
‘Obviously we have had a massive amount of cancellations for the last third of March, and all of April,’ said Mr Sillett.
‘Some bookings are what we term as flexible, in that they are guaranteed with a credit card but the booker can cancel up to 48 hours prior to arrival. So all of these bookings have been lost.
‘A large number of bookings these days are advance payment/non-refundable, which are at a more competitive rate than the flexible option.’
But they and other hoteliers have been allowing customers to move reservations to another date within the next 12 months, although if they book for a peak period there would most likely be an additional charge.
While most guests were happy, Mr Sillett said it has proved too difficult for some, about 20%, to rebook, in which case a full refund was the only option.
‘Also there are group bookings via tour operators which are unable to change dates,’ added Mrs Sillett. ‘These have had to be cancelled without charge.’
These have involved some bookings from Europe
The couple said hotels are expecting a further wave of cancellations for next month to start soon.
By Mark Ogier
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