Anger mounts in the United Kingdom over increased lockdowns and the insufficiency of government policies to assist businesses. Also, the AHC Reimagined conference from Manchester furthers the cause of online hotelier summits.
The United Kingdom is facing a second nationwide lockdown as it fails to stem positive COVID-19 cases, and hoteliers and hospitality bosses have much to be concerned about.
In August, there was the very successful Eat Out to Help Out scheme that government officials said pumped £500 million ($651 million) into the economy, but that success is now touted by some as being one of the causes of this second spike.
This comes amid government initiatives such as its furlough and grant schemes coming to an end. According to Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs and the government’s Public Accounts Committee, approximately £3.5 billion ($4.6 billion) has been spirited away across both initiatives in fraud or in error.
That’s just not cricket, and, besides, that is a lot of money that could have helped business.
More criticism—and surely all governments are in damned-if-I-do, damned-if-don’t situations—is brewing over a second lockdown.
There is pressure on areas of the northern U.K. having more restrictions, which creates North-South divide antagonism as the government keeps check on the numbers of positive cases in different regions.
For the last month, pubs and restaurants across the country have been required to close at 10 p.m., not the usual 11 p.m., and business owners say there is no evidence an hour less of trading does any help to keep social gatherings and cases down.
Traders say the policy lacks clarity and that they’d rather close down completely and receive whatever new government support might be formulated than get nothing and struggle with reduced hours, demand and footfall.
This middle road is an appalling one, they said, which will see businesses fail.
It also would have the government off the hook, perhaps. Officials have argued they did what they could but cannot save every job and business.
The argument—and it has holes, as do all arguments in this strange period—against this is that businesses and consumers should be regarded as intelligent and able to self-regulate and take appropriate hygiene and social-distancing measures.
At least that would give businesses a chance of surviving, rather than the current situation of a slow slide into the quicksand.
More development in conferences
Usually this time of year, the U.K. hotel industry would be gathering at the Hilton Deansgate, Manchester, for the Annual Hotel Conference.
Not this year of course, but it did go ahead as a very well-produced, TV show-like extravaganza, with organizer Questex’s Alexi Khajavi and AHC founder Jonathan Langston hosting to the right of a panel setup.
It has been interesting to see the development of online conferences, pretty much a 2020 phenomenon, and with 20-20 vision (sorry!), it can be said that this product has evolved along the lines of most others. It starts with an idea that comes with flaws; someone else steps in and improves the concept; then a Gold Standard is reached and enjoyed for a time, and then yet more innovation turns the idea on its head.
A mix of live, pre-programmed and video components seems to be the way, and the AHC should be commended—as I believe I have commended all this year’s efforts, even if now we could churlishly pick holes in one or two of them.
The AHC show even had a live band for intermission music, which was a very fun touch. I did not hear all its musical output, but I failed to hear any Manchester music—from its healthy history of bands such as Oasis, The Smiths, Buzzcocks, Stone Roses, Happy Mondays and The Fall, among others.
The AHC also introduced its panels and content with speakers moving from the back of a shot to the front much in the same way they now introduce the players in Premiership soccer matches, and our own Thomas Emanuel, a director at STR, received that treatment, too.
He was the last person shown in such a way, so I was smiling that the caption at that time said “joined by guest speakers and Thomas Emanuel,” which I am sure meant “as well as,” not that Emanuel had somehow gate-crashed the party without invitation.
STR’s Thomas Emanuel stars at the AHC Reimagined conference. (Screen grab: Terence Baker)
Emanuel’s data on the U.K. hotel market was more than rapturously received and help shaped an excellent rest of the day.
I now await to see the next innovation that comes to the conference sector, although I am sure we’d all prefer it to mostly disappear so we could all board planes and trains and actually meet one another again.
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