Lancashire hotel ‘forced to close’ and others see mass cancellations as customers ‘scared away’

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Another national lockdown could have a “huge impact on staff, mentally and financially” if a furlough scheme is not introduced at the same time

 

The Lawrence boutique hotel in Padiham, near Burnley
The Lawrence boutique hotel in Padiham, near Burnley (Image: The Lawrence)

Hundreds of families in Lancashire are preparing to spend Christmas and New Year away from home in hotels, bed and breakfasts and guest houses.

But with rising cases of the Omicron covid-19 variant and fears that another national lockdown is imminent, guests are facing an anxious wait.

Hotels are also apprehensive that if a lockdown is announced that sufficient government support for staff, such as the return of the furlough scheme, will be put in place to compensate for loss of wages over one of the busiest periods of the year.

Earlier this month, the Government announced Covid Plan B measures, including a recommendation to work from home, which largely concerns hospitality and tourism businesses and they saw an instant impact on footfall and big group booking cancellations.

Two weeks ago the family-run 108-room Hotel Sheraton in Blackpool was fully booked over Christmas and New Year and has since seen 8% of cancellations, which proprietor Liz Brown says is “nothing drastic” but she concedes that a lockdown would have a “huge impact on staff, mentally and financially”.

Irene Seddon (centre) and her children Nigel Seddon and Liz Brown run The Elgin and Hotel Sheraton in Blackpool
Irene Seddon (centre) and her children Nigel Seddon and Liz Brown run The Elgin and Hotel Sheraton in Blackpool (Image: LancsLive)

She is also wary of disappointing guests who have already fully paid, booked travel and some who are lonely, live alone and desperate to “come and be looked after and fed well.”

“I respect the [Government] decisions if we have to close because of the safety of our guests, but they have to financially support us because we are open all year apart from two weeks in January – some of our staff would have to go on Universal Credit to survive.

“We have some reserves but we can’t afford to pay staff if they don’t work.”

The exterior of Hotel Sheraton, located on the North Shore in Blackpool
The exterior of Hotel Sheraton, located on the North Shore in Blackpool (Image: Hotel Sheraton)

Liz, whose family also runs 89-room The Elgin which is a couple of doors away on the Queen’s Promenade, is keen to stress that their “immaculate” hotels follows strict covid cleaning guidelines, conducting temperature checks on arrival and lateral flow tests are also available.

The hotels have seen “busy numbers” since emerging from lockdown in May, with bookings also high for February and March 2022, due to people “desperate to get away” but more reluctant to travel abroad.

Guests, who are predominantly older people, stay up to 10 days over the festive period and many are regulars who visit every year.

(Image: Hotel Sheraton)

Liz says they are generally “stoic and determined” to press ahead with their winter break, especially if they have been “triple jabbed”.

“Guests don’t mind wearing a mask or having to sit further apart and not being able to dance, they adapt and get on with it” added Liz, whose parents John and Irene bought The Elgin in the 1960s and then the family acquired The Sheraton in 2015.

“They just want to come, play bingo and quizzes, stay safe inside the hotel and be looked after”

“We’re prepared and already have made some big orders, to cover Christmas and the Bank Holidays.

“It’s quite unfair for the government to keep everyone waiting, we just want to know either way and they should have enough scientific forecasting last week to make a decisions on whether hospitality can stay open or not. ”