Getting hospitality and leisure back to business

The hospitality and leisure sector has faced numerous challenges as a result of the coronavirus crisis – with shutdown, pivots, and furloughs affecting a huge number of businesses. Barclays experts, Mike Saul and Graham Austin outline the impact of the pandemic, the financial support available – and offer their thoughts on preparing for the ‘new normal’.

Hospitality and leisure insights

Many industries have faced drastic changes over the last months. But the sudden lockdown in March left most customer-facing hospitality and leisure businesses like hotels, restaurants, pubs, travel companies and leisure operators largely unable to trade.

“They have gone from getting ready for the busy part of the seasonal trend to a full shutdown with a direct message to close,” says Graham Austin, Head of SME for South West at Barclays. “Anything that’s got a potential for gathering has really been curtailed. There are no previous examples, certainly in our living memory, that would compare with this sort of impact.”

The sector is one of the largest in the UK. While some restaurants have been able to pivot to takeaway service, and hotels have been permitted to provide accommodation to clients such as critical workers, non-UK residents who cannot travel and vulnerable people, many labour-intensive businesses have been forced to close and furlough staff.

We’re going to have a lot of new needs in the new ‘new normal’, so it’s important to try and help businesses survive that period and help them deal with the new challenges

Mike Saul

Head of Hospitality and Leisure

Barclays has been working to provide the sector with the support needed to weather the immediate impact of the crisis: through government schemes such as CBILS, CLBILS, and the Bounce Back Loans, as well as via capital repayment holidays and frozen bank charges for small businesses.

But, in the long term, business owners are concerned about what the future has in store for discretionary spending. “Nobody knows what the new ground rules are likely to be,” says Mike Saul, Head of Hospitality and Leisure at Barclays Corporate Banking. Changing tourism trends and public confidence after lockdown are difficult to predict – and will have a significant impact on how these businesses will operate in the future.

The future of hospitality and leisure

Mike Saul says the bank’s expertise will continue to be an essential resource, helping clients to establish new trading patterns.

We’ve had a dedicated hospitality and leisure team since 1998, and that comes with an ability to talk to clients on equal terms. We’ve been able to act effectively as a partner, understanding their challenges, legislation, their wider business considerations and it’s allowed us to react appropriately and quickly to the needs of the industry as a whole. We’re going to have a lot of new needs in whatever the ‘new normal’ presents itself as, so it’s important to try and help businesses survive that period, and provide thought leadership to help them deal with new challenges.

Getting ready to reopen

In the meantime, Austin says many businesses have taken a proactive approach: “I don’t think any of my hospitality and leisure customers are just sitting back and waiting. They’re using the opportunity to spring clean and get ready to go forward when they can – although when they can is out of their hands.”

Austin advises ensuring that cash flow, HMRC and internal paperwork are in good order, checking trusted industry sources, as well as communicating effectively with staff, so that when businesses reopen, they can provide the best service possible. 

While industry websites and guidance are helpful resources, he says it’s also essential to “look in the mirror as well as out the window.”

“Businesses should look at their own website to make sure they are communicating well with anyone who’s looking to make an enquiry. Are they ready to reopen and are they ready to take their share back of the market, when they can?”

Saul adds that clients should make sure that any new plans adhere to government guidelines, when they are released: 

“We will be seeking a continuation of our partnership approach – we don’t expect business plans to be fixed for the next 12 months. We expect to work with clients in a dynamic and progressive way to help them get to normal trading.”

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