Hospitality businesses face a bleak midwinter

CHRISTMAS restaurant bookings for thousands of people have been cancelled as worries about Covid-19 grow.

Everything is going wrong and nothing is going right, according to Saints Bay Hotel manager Ashraf Elsergany. The establishment has lost most of its Christmas Day lunch bookings.   (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 30272198)
Everything is going wrong and nothing is going right, according to Saints Bay Hotel manager Ashraf Elsergany. The establishment has lost most of its Christmas Day lunch bookings. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 30272198)

Many have chosen to cancel meals and functions in the lead-up to Christmas after the States updated its Covid-19 guidance, requiring islanders to wear masks in shops and strongly advising face coverings in poorly-ventilated areas.

Guernsey Hospitality Association president Alan Sillett said it was a real blow to the industry, when hoteliers and restaurateurs were hoping for a strong finish to the year.

‘It is not just venues with a strong functions element to their business, but also smaller venues who usually have bookings for small to medium-sized office parties and corporate events.’

Sarnia Hotels managing director Karel Harris said it had received thousands of cancellations for December for Moores Hotel, Hotel de Havelet and Les Rocquettes Hotel.

‘We’ve had all sorts of groups cancelling – school groups and corporate groups where people are entertaining clients and mixing is more likely. There’s no fixed thing or age group. It just seems like most people are going from one issue and one problem to the next,’ she said.

She said profits made during the Christmas season were important in setting establishments up for the following year.

‘It sees us through the quieter months,’ she said.

Guernsey’s hospitality industry was considered to be in crisis throughout most of this year, leading many businesses to modify their opening hours due to a lack of staff.

The crisis was believed to be caused by a combination of factors – Brexit, the pandemic and the island’s working visa and housing policies.

Saints Bay Hotel had filled all 75 available covers for Christmas Day lunch back in November, but now 55 people have cancelled.

‘We suffer a lot because of cancellations with things like getting ingredients from the mainland which now aren’t going to be consumed. Everything is going wrong and nothing is going right,’ said the hotel’s manager, Ashraf Elsergany.

‘Christmas is a big thing here with the atmosphere of the fire going and the children opening presents, but I’m now not looking forward to Christmas.’

Several functions were booked in for December, many of which have also been cancelled.

‘A lot of hotels are having the same problem, but you have to be patient and just survive it,’ he said.

Some companies and businesses have postponed Christmas corporate parties amid concerns of Covid-19 spreading throughout entire departments or teams, including States members, who chose late last month to cancel their traditional lunch.

The Hook and Sling has decided to impose charges should large groups cancel at short notice.

‘Empty tables are extremely costly to our operation. We would much rather have a table of happy guests than charge for empty seats,’ said Sam Jarrold, who owns the restaurant.

‘People are unable to travel in or people are worried about having their team all in one place and people are more worried about having to self-isolate.’

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