26 May 2022

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Rollercoaster August – do we know where things are going?
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Rollercoaster August – do we know where things are going?

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As the days go by we see more and more changes which leave our lives in some turmoil

There has been something about this month which seems to be very unsettling. We are now three weeks through it and every day seems to herald some new news which in some way rocks the boat.

The big things which have probably affected a large number of our people are the changes in quarantine requirements. When the quarantine issue was first raised, this immediately got the airlines going because they could see that this would be yet another nail in their particular coffin. Lockdown relaxed, people have gone on holiday to overseas destinations. I cannot help feeling that taking the step to go abroad for holidays during the pandemic was always going to be risky. Holidaymakers going to Spain suddenly found that they were going to be quarantined on their return to the UK, at very little notice indeed, and this included the Transport Secretary who then found himself subject to his own rule.

Things moved forward and then France was added to the list, again at virtually no notice and British people in France made a mad scramble to get back and “beat the clock”. Some made it and others did not.

Now the quarantine measures have been extended to Croatia, Austria and some of the Caribbean. Other countries included are Andorra and Belgium. This time the Transport Secretary has said that anyone taking the risk of going overseas for holiday during the pandemic needs to understand that things can change in the blink of an eye. It is perhaps a shame that this comment was not made earlier – certainly when Spain became affected. People may have decided not to take the risk.

Portugal on the other hand has been restored to air corridor status.

This is all rather unsettling but at the same time it was all completely predictable. I would go so far as to say that those who have been abroad and have come back without having to quarantine are the lucky ones.

On the hotel front today, as a result of coronavirus pressures on the business, two major hotel groups are “rumoured” to be considering a merger. These are IHG, well known for brands like Intercontinental, Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn, and Accor, the French group which includes brands like Raffles, Swissôtel, Mercure and Ibis, amongst many others. In fact the list is enormous. If this merger were to go ahead then apparently the new group would be valued at something like $17 billion and would be the largest merger since Marriott purchased Starwood Hotels and Resorts in 2016, estimated at $13.6 billion.

This comes at a time when an August 2020 analysis showed that the industry may not recover to pre-Covid-19 occupancy levels until 2024. Another analysis apparently suggests that one in four hotels will fall into arrears with their mortgage payments. This particular analysis refers to the US but there is no reason to suggest that the UK could not be in the same boat.

And further in this pot pourri of news, apparently there is more information on the eat out to help out scheme introduced by the chancellor and which now has just four more days to run. Apparently only one third of businesses believe that the scheme will have a lasting effect and encourage a return to restaurants after the scheme has ended.

It is difficult to know what people do actually expect from the scheme. Given the success of the scheme and the additional business which restaurants have had, probably the truth is that the British people like a freebie and have taken advantage of it. On balance all that can realistically be expected is that confidence will be restored to pre-Covid-19 levels; it seems very unlikely that it will be higher but at the same time we have also heard that a lot of people have re-discovered the joys of cooking at home and realising that you can eat very well at home for a fraction of the cost.

The confirmatory news of Easyjet closing three of their bases has also broken this week. This appears to be a decision with a massive fallout but probably reflects the falling demand for foreign travel at a time when staycation appears to have fallen on its feet in the past few weeks.

Only time will tell; the months from September through to December should be quite a good indicator of how the populace has adapted its habits. I think as a country we are going to find quite a few surprises ahead of us in the aftermath of coronavirus. There is no doubt that the rollercoaster has some momentum yet.

Adrian Leopard 21-08-20

Photo Emilio Garcia

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