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Working in hospitality, tourism or leisure? Attend this webinar

PUBLISHED: 10:24 17 June 2020 | UPDATED: 11:35 17 June 2020

When holidaymakers isolating in family bubbles can return to the Broads, they'll find a warm welcome waiting at Norfolk Broads Direct and Waveney River Centre   Picture: WRC/NBD

When holidaymakers isolating in family bubbles can return to the Broads, they'll find a warm welcome waiting at Norfolk Broads Direct and Waveney River Centre Picture: WRC/NBD

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Sign up for a free-to-attend webinar bringing five business leaders together to discuss how the leisure, tourism and hospitality sector can get through Covid-19.

Chris Scargill, tourism, leisure and hospitality specialist partner at MHA Larking Gowen, says there are some 'big challenges' ahead    Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNChris Scargill, tourism, leisure and hospitality specialist partner at MHA Larking Gowen, says there are some 'big challenges' ahead Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

A live webinar is bringing together leading figures in the tourism, leisure and hospitality sector, to share their experiences of addressing the issues raised by the Covid-19 crisis. Called ‘Hope or Fear? The first steps for the sector’, the free-to-attend online event takes place on June 23, at 10.30am.

The webinar is being hosted by chartered accountants and business advisors MHA Larking Gowen, which for 14 years has organised the annual Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality business survey. “Our survey is unique and comprehensive; providing key topical information that highlights challenges and enables benchmarking,” says Chris Scargill of MHA Larking Gowen.

Businesses face some unusual challenges because of the lockdown, and some need help – a webinar was felt the best way to provide those insights and to address the issues raised by coronavirus. Chaired by Mr Scargill, the panellists will be Andrew Barnes of Bure Valley Railway, Ruth Knight of Norfolk Broads Direct and Waveney River Centre, Philip Turner of the Chestnut Group and Andy Wood of Adnams.

The Swan in Southwold is Adnams' flagship hotel. Like the rest of the hospitality sector, the firm is waiting to find out how it can get visitors back through the doors   Picture: AdnamsThe Swan in Southwold is Adnams' flagship hotel. Like the rest of the hospitality sector, the firm is waiting to find out how it can get visitors back through the doors Picture: Adnams

“Our panellists’ businesses cover everything from hotel accommodation and holiday parks, camping and lodges, pubs and inns to attractions and boating holidays, manufacture and retail,” says Mr Scargill. “All with unique issues and challenges as a result of Covid-19 and the manner they will each address the recovery process.”

Mrs Knight, whose two companies operate everything from Broads cruisers and passenger boats to self-catering accommodation, a campsite and a pub, says: “One of the biggest challenges has simply been the way the timing of the lockdown coincided with the start of the season.

“As a seasonal business we rely on cashflow through the holiday season to fund winter maintenance. We arrived at the start of the season only to find it cancelled.”

Andy Wood of Adnams. As well as being a brewer, the firm operates 46 pubs and hotels, 13 stores and brewery tours that last year welcomed 22,000 visitors... and 80pc of its business was stopped by Covid   Picture: AdnamsAndy Wood of Adnams. As well as being a brewer, the firm operates 46 pubs and hotels, 13 stores and brewery tours that last year welcomed 22,000 visitors... and 80pc of its business was stopped by Covid Picture: Adnams

It’s clear that large parts of the businesses can’t open until guidelines change, but in the meantime Norfolk Broads Direct and Waveney River Centre are adjusting premises to be safe for staff and guests, as well as developing innovative contact-free ways to work with visitors, to prepare for a partial reopening on July 4.

“It is unlikely that all of our properties will open simultaneously, due to the extensive training that team members will require,” says Philip Turner of the Chestnut Group, which operates 11 pubs and boutique hotels in Norfolk and Suffolk. “The flexi furlough scheme will enable us to manage the rota into ‘working bubbles’ to protect the business from a potential outbreak.

“We do not expect revenues to return to their normalised levels for a period of time,” he adds. “Hence there will be continued use of the furlough scheme to protect jobs while the businesses rebuild.”

Ruth Knight of Waveny River Centre and Norfolk Broads Direct has been developing revolutionary contact-free ways to teach customers boat-handling skills for Broads holidays   Picture: WRC/NBDRuth Knight of Waveny River Centre and Norfolk Broads Direct has been developing revolutionary contact-free ways to teach customers boat-handling skills for Broads holidays Picture: WRC/NBD

All four businesses have put the majority of staff on furlough. For Bure Valley Railway, the end of the furlough scheme in October has been one of the key factors in aiming to reopen on August 1.

“Our best chance of protecting our workers’ jobs is to reopen,” says Mr Barnes. “Running additional trains and other adaptations means we’re looking at a 20pc increase in costs, but it’s better to take that hit and try to raise the revenue to ensure we can carry our staff through winter.”

Adnams saw 80pc of its business disappear overnight with the lockdown – and though online and supermarket sales subsequently boomed, that’s very different to supplying more than 1,500 pubs (including 46 it owns directly).

The Globe in Wells-next-the-Sea is one of 11 Chestnut properties closed by the coronavirus, but the firm's Giving Tree initiative has seen kitchens open to provide meals for key workers   Picture: Chestnut GroupThe Globe in Wells-next-the-Sea is one of 11 Chestnut properties closed by the coronavirus, but the firm's Giving Tree initiative has seen kitchens open to provide meals for key workers Picture: Chestnut Group

“We took swift and decisive actions to ensure the survival of our business,” says Mr Wood. “We are looking forward to our teams re-opening our businesses when the time is right, but I would almost always encourage a tapered approach, as every industry and business is different.”

These are the panellists on the ‘Hope or Fear? The first steps for the sector’ webinar. Those watching live will be able to post questions for the chairman to put to them.

“We are not pulling together a group of advisors, but a panel of real businesses, facing real problems, discussing real issues,” says Mr Scargill. “Their experience will resonate with those working on their own plans for their path to survival and onto recovery.”

Philip Turner of Chestnut Group. While his 11 pubs and hotels have been shut, his team have delivered 20,000 free meals to hospitals and care homes   Picture: Chestnut GroupPhilip Turner of Chestnut Group. While his 11 pubs and hotels have been shut, his team have delivered 20,000 free meals to hospitals and care homes Picture: Chestnut Group

To register to attend the webinar on Tuesday, June 23 at 10.30am, click here.


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