Almost two years after the pandemic upended our lives and shook our industry in its foundation, European hospitality is still the hardest hit. After a short-lived period of cautious optimism this summer, the fast-spreading Omicron variant within the epidemic of Covid has made it painfully clear that the worst is still not behind us.
Over the last twenty months, businesses in the sector have operated with considerable resilience, fully complied with health & safety protocols. Businesses will continue to play their part in keeping customers and the workforce safe. Despite these efforts, the number one priority can still be boiled down to survival.
We are talking about roughly 2 million businesses of all sizes – from large chains to SMEs and micro-enterprises: behind this number are millions of workers that are still facing incredible hardships.
1. Crucial coordination at the EU level key to sector stability
Today we are just one week away from the beginning of the holiday season. A lot of hopes rest on this traditionally busy period for European hospitality – especially at a time when the sector is trying to recover from huge losses in turnover. However, with governments across Europe tightening up restrictions, we expect businesses to once again face hardship.
The situation which we are observing now is extremely concerning. Even if hospitality establishments remain open, consumer confidence is falling, and many venues experience a tsunami of cancellation due to the new restrictions and the cancellation of many events. We are facing critical months ahead, with even more fragility and decreased income. It feels like déja-vu, but we are concerned that this will be the last straw for many.
This is exactly why we are urging the European Institutions to continue coordinating measures and efforts against Covid-19 in Europe with the full engagement and support of national governments. This approach is going to be crucial if we want hospitality and the entire EU economy to bounce back even stronger.
2. Supporting hospitality: the next steps to recover
Earlier this month, HOTREC members gathered in Lyon for the 83rd General Assembly and voiced grave concerns for the sector’s viability at the prospect of further closures, loss in turnover, and months – if not years – before recovery is in sight.
The two days of intense discussions led to one unanimous conclusion: our number one goal in 2022 and beyond will be to first and foremost ensure survival while remaining committed to our long-term goals.
We have learned the hard way, that reopening is not the same as recovery. Our sector needs urgent financial support to endure a new wave of restrictions and medium-term support to face future setbacks and facilitate the necessary digital and sustainable transition. Many jobs and livelihoods are at stake.
In this regard, we very much welcome the recent announcement by the European Commission to extend the State aid Temporary Framework until the end of June 2022 and continue to call on the Member States to make the most of this opportunity. Continued access to capital and financing, extending loans reimbursements and offering reduced VAT rates at the national level are a few but necessary steps to support European hospitality and help it face future challenges.
We also must not underestimate the impact that the current staffing crisis will have on the pace of the recovery. Motivated and well-trained workers will lead the way out of the crisis. We must make sure to efficiently address skills shortages by further promoting up-skilling, re-skilling and apprenticeships, and by communicating that hospitality is a diverse, transversal sector that can offer exciting and promising careers.
To conclude, I am sure that despite the dramatic circumstances that we are facing today, our sector will bounce back. Until then, we must keep working hard #TogetherForHospitality to support our businesses and workers and help them survive this crisis.