Yes, I know, I know, 'Health is important' and I mean 'Health IS important!' but so too is the economy. There are better orators and writers on this subject than I, but I feel that for the sake of the hospitality and tourism industries in Wales, I must speak out. And, for what it's worth my view is "The Welsh Government are killing the Hospitality and Tourism Sectors in Wales."
As I write this post, Monday 15th June 2020, some 85 days after official lock-down, the Welsh Government have offered zero, yes ZERO information regarding how they plan to extricate the hospitality and tourism industries out of lock-down. There has been no advice, guidance and encouragement nor any type of road-map to indicate where and when we are moving forward. That, my readers, is scandalous, and inept at best. Don't get me wrong, restaurateurs, pub landlords, cafe owners etc haven't been expecting the Welsh Government to wave a magic wand and provide firm dates for re-opening, but they have been expecting more than ZERO comment on a sector that is vital to the economy of Wales. The constant bullshit of the First Minister's "We'll re-open when it's safe" is not only unhelpful but it indicates that the Welsh Government do not have a grasp on how the hospitality industry works nor what on earth they need to do to get things moving.
For example: Rob Stewart, Leader of Swansea Council recently published statistics which read - Population of Swansea 246,993 - Coronavirus deaths (as at 22 May) 188. No matter how small or large those figures are, the deaths are tragic and all restaurateurs, pub landlords and cafe owners accept that view. But my point here is that the Death to Population statistic is - 0.07% of the population in Swansea have died from the infection. I would suggest that this isn't far off the usual mortality rate for this area, year on year. The statistic for Cases to Population stood at 0.51% - Wales now has the lowest R rate in the UK between 0.5 and 0.7 and yet on Tuesday 23rd June (just 8 days time) restaurateurs, pub landlords, and cafe owners will receive a further demand for rent payment for their premises, and at this stage don't know if they will be able to open ever again. It isn't what the Welsh Government are saying, it's what they aren't saying...there is nothing coming from their mouths except 'we'll make an announcement soon'. This is nothing short of professional negligence!
Yes we all accept and welcome the financial support that has been offered to date (mostly as a result of the Welsh Government watching what the UK government was intending to offer them in the first place), although it has to be said the need to be cornered into having to take out commercial loans in order to survive is hardly doing the business sector any real favours. Delaying matters and forcing the businesses into unnecessary debt and a detrimental balance sheet for the future is not support - it's Russian Roulette. It seems now that the Welsh Government have stated that "once you open there is no turning back - there will be no further financial support", so if you open immediately and it isn't viable (maybe due to the lack of trust by the public) you can't return for financial support - this is basically a shit or bust approach. But what's as concerning is the fact that if your business decides to remain closed a little longer than the 'official opening day' to allow the public to build confidence in returning to dining-out then there is still no financial support. With the UK Government's Furlough Scheme being wound down from August onwards, it means that Welsh hospitality businesses will have to find more money with no income (and no further financial support from the Welsh Government). That's a really bright step forward by the Welsh Government isn't it!?
There is absolutely no doubt that is dilly-dallying by the Welsh Government will result in significant redundancies, and also bankruptcies.
Welsh Independent Restaurant Collective (WIRC)
On Monday 8th June, 70 small businesses made up of representatives from the hospitality and tourism sectors met online to discuss the issues before the regarding reopening, with a view to approaching the Welsh Government and requesting them to take firm positive action. Stemming from that discussion, it was agreed by all attendees that a new body be created to represent the interests of the sector in respect of COVID-19/re-opening and any other issues that may arise in future. Hence the Welsh Independent Restaurant Collective (WIRC) was formed. Ably chaired by Simon Wright of Wright's Emporium, the Collective has formed a small nucleus of about 6 committee members who will take matters forward in future. This is an important step for the hospitality sector in Wales and much can be channelled through this body.
Should you, as a restaurateur, cafe owner or pub landlord wish to join the Collective then you can sign up via the link Welsh Independent Restaurant Collective and/or you can follow the group on Twitter (WIRC). A copy of their letter, signed by over 70 businesses to the First Minister of the Welsh Government can be viewed here.