Hospitality businesses need immediate and wide-ranging support to deal with the threat of the coronavirus, according to trade body UKHospitality.

The body, which represents 700 businesses, has written to the Prime Minister highlighting the impact of COVID-19 already being felt businesses around the country.

Hotel occupancy has fallen 15% while eating and drinking out has declined by 7%. The trade body has also warned that forward bookings across hotels, restaurants, pubs and bars has fallen by up to 50%.

With businesses likely to be hit further as self-isolation becomes more widespread, the letter calls on the Government to implement urgent measures.

These include:

  •  A moratorium on business rates for a minimum of 3 months, extendable dependant on the extent of virus spread; any quarantined area to have business rates annulled for the period on non-trading
  • Business payment delay to ease cashflow (i.e. on VAT, PAYE and NICs)
  • VAT cut for hospitality and tourism, to incentivise bookings, so that trade can resume as quickly as possible when the virus threat subsides

UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said: “Hospitality businesses are on the front line, so to speak. There has been a significant impact on the sector. Bookings are down, footfall is down, and all signs point to it getting worse before it gets better.

“This is now an emergency for our sector. If Government doesn’t act to mitigate the impact and give us support, businesses are in danger. This means cash flow becomes a problem, venues are under threat and jobs at risk.

“By the time the immediate threat of the virus has subsided it may be too late for some businesses. Support is needed and it is needed now.”

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