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‘Waiting for the effects of coronavirus to hit is like waiting for a tsunami,’ says hotel boss

PUBLISHED: 11:39 12 March 2020 | UPDATED: 14:53 12 March 2020

Nicholas and Aileen Mobbs, who run the Imperial Hotel in Yarmouth, with their dog Sammy. Picture: Storrhouse Ltd.

Nicholas and Aileen Mobbs, who run the Imperial Hotel in Yarmouth, with their dog Sammy. Picture: Storrhouse Ltd.

The owner of a four-star hotel in Norfolk has likened waiting for the effects of coronavirus to hit as like a ‘tsunami.’

Nicholas Mobbs, who runs the Imperial Hotel, in Yarmouth, with wife Aileen, with a £1.8m turnover, has seen bookings down by 30%, and has drafted a list of 30 cancellations since Monday.

'It's like waiting for a tsunami to hit, which is going to wash us away. We've been here 36 years and we've seen oil spills, terrorism when it was thought bombs were being put in seaside resorts, we've seen recessions and the credit crunch but nothing like coronavirus, this is unchartered territory.'

MORE: Boss sends all staff home as scientist warns businesses to act on coronavirus

Nicholas Mobbs, who runs the Imperial Hotel in Yarmouth, with his dog Sammy. Picture: Storrhouse Ltd.Nicholas Mobbs, who runs the Imperial Hotel in Yarmouth, with his dog Sammy. Picture: Storrhouse Ltd.

Mr Mobbs said they were seeing a large number of corporate guests cancel; firms holding conferences in their function rooms, accounting for about 30-40% of the hotel's overall business. But other guests, many older, were cancelling holiday bookings too.

'I've started a list of bookings cancelled as a direct result of coronavirus and it's taken up a whole A4 page and I only started it on Monday, about 30 or so.

'We don't see many international guests, that's not our market, it is people coming locally and from other parts of the UK. But after Trump has banned travel into the US apart from Britain, it sends a worrying message to people that we need to be on lock-down. Of course we want to ensure the safety of our guests and I will be forming a contingency plan after the results of Boris Johnson's emergency Cobra meeting today.'

A conference at Yarmouth's Imperial Hotel. Pic: Paul DaviesA conference at Yarmouth's Imperial Hotel. Pic: Paul Davies

Other businesses such as holiday firms are also starting to feel the effects of coronavirus on trade.

Mr Mobbs ssaid the hotel, with 39 rooms, and employing 45 staff was trying to continue as normal. There were no plans to reduce employees' hours. he said, and they were continuing to market forthcoming events such as a Mother's day lunch next weekend and next month, a wine tasting evening.

And Mr Mobbs also said he was 'furious' over yesterday's Budget which granted a business rate holiday for firms with a rateable value of less than £51,000.

'I am hopping mad as firms like ours, which is more than that, get nothing.'

The Imperial Hotel, Yarmouth. Pic: ArchantThe Imperial Hotel, Yarmouth. Pic: Archant

Until the 1960s, the hotel, overlooking the sea at the end of North Drive, was run by Mr Mobbs'grandfather Campbell Lindsay. Mr Mobbs' parents, Roger and Jill Mobbs took over the helm running the business until the late 1990s. Mr Mobbs joined the business in 1984 straight from university. It recently won a Norfolk & Suffolk Tourism 2020 award in the Customers at the Heart of Everything category.

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