‘A long way to go’ before normality, BHA warns

Hotels in Bristol are making final preparations for re-opening their doors on 17 May but say there is “still a long way to go” before business returns to normal, according to the Bristol Hoteliers Association (BHA).

The BHA, which represents around 40 hotels in and around the city, said most businesses are unable to operate at 100% capacity due to social distancing restrictions and cannot operate bars and restaurants as normal.

Even if they were able to operate at full capacity, it said the “biggest challenge will be ensuring they have enough staff to provide the level of service guests will expect”.

When the Government revealed its roadmap to recovery earlier this year, BHA members said they intended to recruit at least 500 people as they prepared to re-open their businesses.

However, BHA chair Raphael Herzog said recruiting the number of people required has been difficult for a “number of reasons”.

He said: “There has been a shortage of people from the EU, who left when the pandemic struck but who have not yet returned, or who have not been allowed to return to the UK.

“The hospitality sector has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, and was often among the first to close and last to re-open. This has had a negative impact on people’s confidence when it comes to job stability.”

He added: “Many staff who had been initially furloughed have opted for alternative jobs, in retail, supermarkets and delivery because they think these sectors offer greater employment security.

“Seasonal workers like students are not yet available to work, so there is a risk, certainly during the short-term that some vacancies might not been filled as quickly as hoped which could impact the hotel operations.”

He added it was “frustrating” because despite regular media reports about rising unemployment, the group was “not seeing as many applications for our vacancies as we would have hoped for”.

He said: “People often view working in hospitality as a short-term option or a stop-gap. We’re working hard to change those perceptions and raise awareness of the many opportunities for rewarding, varied, life-time careers within our wonderful industry.”

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