Despite the World Health Organisation (WHO) having declared Omicron as mild, customer confidence has been knocked and according to independent research, Christmas bookings were still down 12.4% based on expectations from 2019.
In October this year, the hospitality industry was hopeful for a profitable festive season as businesses booked up spaces early in the hope of making up for lost time last year.
However, despite Boris Johnson advising people not to cancel their plans, the conflicting advice from government advisors asking people “not to socialise when we don’t particularly need to” is having a severe impact on new and existing bookings.
Larger companies have been telling staff to cancel their Christmas parties, including Sainsbury’s asking its employees to cancel their team parties and Christmas plans with colleagues.
These decisions have been prompted by not only fears of the new variant, but also the change in rules requiring all contacts of the new variant to self-isolate even if fully jabbed.
Operators across the country are reporting cancellations on a large scale as companies cancel plans to avoid either a staff crisis or ruining employees Christmas plans.
Amid the confusion surrounding Covid and ambiguity of what the festive period could look like, Night-Tim Industries Association (NTIA) CEO, Michael Kill, has called on the Government to be clear with its intentions for the hospitality industry as the uncertainty continues to negatively impact the sector. Michael went on to comment:
“Christmas bookings and advance ticket sales have already been hit following the announcement of the new Omicron variant.
The Government needs to recognise that, while restrictions are not in place for the hospitality and night-time economy sectors, we are reliving the moments of March 2020 where the Prime Minister asked people not to go to pubs, bars, clubs and theatres.
It is surreal and extremely frustrating to see healthcare advisers publicly telling people not to socialise, giving unnecessary uncertainty to our customers and workforce.”
The result of all of this is that operators are once again in an impossible situation – they can’t close their businesses as there is no offer of government support, yet they are likely to have huge stock holdings that may now go to waste.
It is hoped that those who are cancelling their plans for December will just roll their Christmas party to January, however that won’t solve the immediate issue of the wasted stock and resources in the run-up to Christmas.