Calls for new support for struggling UK hospitality businesses

UK: Support grants for tourism businesses during the English and UK national lockdowns are needed, says Mark Simpson, the founder of hospitality and short stay rental accommodation marketing website, Boostly.

The national lockdown announced across England has forced hospitality businesses to close [5 November – 2 December] although there are unanswered questions about essential travel.

Could grants kickstart the hospitality businesses?

Boostly says it is helping hospitality businesses to get ready for applications to their Local Growth Hubs across England after the announcement that local authorities would receive grants for businesses.

Businesses forced to close can receive £3,000 and further financial support will be discussed in Parliament this week.

Simpson said: “We have found that being insistent is increasing the chance of receiving grants. We’re also seeing it helps to get multiple quotes from different companies.”

He made the recommendations for hospitality businesses to prepare for grant applications:

  • Call Local Growth Hubs to get information and contacts
  • Shop around for two to three quotes from different companies for services e.g. marketing

Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, said hospitality businesses were facing profound economic uncertainty and required further support. Additional funding to support cash grants of up to £2,100 per month was approved as part of his Job Support Scheme, and those grants could benefit around 150,000 businesses in England, including hotels, B&Bs and restaurants.

In addition, business premises forced to close in England could receive grants worth up to £3,000 per month under the Local Restrictions Support Grant. The grants will be available retrospectively for areas who have already been subject to restrictions, and come on top of additional business support for Authorities in Tier Three. 

Oxton Hill Hideaway owner Suzanne Green in Nottinghamshire said she hoped that the grants would not be too restrictive or prescriptive. According to her, many accommodation owners missed out on the Kickstart Tourism Grants opened across the UK since July.

Why did Kickstart Tourism Grants not save the industry?

Under the UK Government’s £10 million Kickstart Tourism Grant scheme, small grants [£1,000 – £5,000] were offered to businesses for specialist professional advice or to purchase technology.

However, Local Growth Hubs opened grant applications without informing local businesses or doing local PR. The scheme excluded self-catered accommodation lets and small B&Bs not large enough to be a limited company, while other businesses missed out due to technical difficulties and different rules.

According to Simpson, a number of hospitality businesses would not have known about the grants without his Hospitality Community Facebook group run by Boostly. 

He said: “These business owners are worried and frustrated because there is free money on the table that will 100 per cent help them with their business but no central guidance or communication, and this has led to anger. The industry provides billions and billions of pounds to the government on a yearly basis and the government needs to be looking after small businesses better on a local level.”

Boostly said it helps hospitality businesses in four ways:

  1. Hospitality Community Facebook Group provides “support and industry updates” for over 5,000 business owners
  2. Website creation, design and services “adapted with modern technology”
  3. Photography, virtual tours and collaborations with social media agencies
  4. The Boostly Academy claims to be the “largest paid membership group for hospitality owners providing marketing training, Q&As and coaching calls” 

“Clinging on by their fingertips”

Simpson’s comments echo those of UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls.

Nicholls said: “The costs to hospitality businesses of a second lockdown will be even heavier than the first. If hospitality, the sector that is our country’s third largest employer, is to survive and help drive economic recovery, it will need equivalent – or more – support than that of the first lockdown.”

According to her, businesses would lose all trade as a result of stricter measures.

She said: “These are businesses clinging on by their fingertips already. A further national lockdown will only accelerate the closure rate and business failure rate unless we get significant additional support.”

Hannah Leadbetter, owner of The Montana in Devon, received 21 cancelled bookings for the upcoming four weeks of the national lockdown.

Leadbetter was rejected for the Kickstart Tourism Grant after applying to the South West Hub when applications first opened in August.

She appealed and was offered half the offered grant, before persisting with phone calls, multiple different emails and posts through social media. In October, she received £2,700 and put this money towards technology to help grow and sustain the business.

Back in September, Simpson said that “hundreds” of struggling small hospitality businesses were being denied “crucial” funding promised by the government.