Hospitality needs a helping hand to build back better
Businesses have suffered so much and there is still a long way to go before they can open their doors, writes Sally-Ann Hart MP. | PA Images
Extending the VAT cut for another year will allow businesses to rebuild and help to keep the costs of staycations and our social reunions affordable for a hard-pressed public.
The pandemic has taken a toll on all parts of society and the economy, but no sector has been hit harder than hospitality.
I have seen first-hand the devastating impact that Covid-19 has had on the sector in my constituency of Hastings and Rye, which depends heavily on tourism. I know colleagues around the country have similar tales of despair from hospitality business owners and their staff.
The successful rollout of the vaccine and the subsequent Spring roadmap from the Prime Minister gives us all hope that we can be back in our favourite pub, restaurant, or holiday park soon. Most of all that we can spend time with friends and families in our favourite places.
But these businesses have suffered so much and there is still a long way to go before they can open their doors. Hospitality will need the helping hand of the Chancellor to survive until they can offer their service again – and will need the government to stand by them as they rebuild.
The government must ensure that furlough remains in place for employees that need it in the recovery period
The reputation of hospitality is high with the public. New data from last month shows that four in five people (83%) felt that hospitality kept their customers safe and three-quarters (75%) said the sector supported their community throughout the pandemic.
The government has done much to help the sector, but the majority of the public feel that hospitality needs more support from government – with a further third (34%) believing it should continue with the same level of aid. It’s clear that protecting our hospitality sector as it recovers is popular.
Businesses welcomed the announcement last weekend of extended grants through the entire period of restrictions. In the immediate term, the government must also ensure that furlough remains in place for those employees that need it in the recovery period before it is wound down.
It is also imperative that government extends the VAT cut for hospitality businesses to 5% for a full year. This was a very popular policy when it was announced last Summer, but business and the public barely had a chance to take advantage of it before the pandemic surged again. Extending the VAT cut for another year will allow businesses to rebuild and help to keep the costs of staycations and our social reunions affordable for a hard-pressed public.
Removing business rates for hospitality businesses last year was critical to their survival and this must be extended. Businesses have taken on debt and deferred payments. With no business rates to pay, they can start to rebuild their shattered finances and get back onto a sustainable footing.
All these measures come at a cost, but we’ll all reap a rich reward if we invest in the sector now.
A rapid return to growth, with all the benefits that brings to the economy and the Treasury; a big dent in the unemployment rate, particularly among the young; investment in our communities bringing more prosperity to the wider economy; a balanced recovery in all parts of the country as we level up; and a rich and diverse hospitality sector for us all to enjoy. I’ll drink to that.
Sally-Ann Hart is MP for Hastings and Rye and Vice-Chair of the APPG for Hospitality and Tourism.