York hospitality leaders have spoken of their hope and relief that they are allowed to fully reopen from today – but warned of a ‘digital timebomb’ affecting businesses.
Pubs and restaurants welcome customers back indoors, household visits resume and the foreign holiday ban ends today (Monday). But, as the third stage of the road map out of lockdown arrives, York’s Hospitality Association (HAY) has a key concern.
Many businesses have improved their online presence over lockdown, with customers able to book and buy online. But this has led to some guests ‘stacking’ their bookings for both hotel rooms and restaurant tables. They book multiple places – then cancel some or all at the last minute.
Online booking has helped keep hospitality businesses afloat, says Martin Bradnam, chair of HAY and general manager of Doubletree by Hilton, York. “However, there is another side to this trend. We are now seeing customers book multiple options for both their dining and accommodation options and deciding as late as the day of the visit and cancelling. “This is leading to a loss of revenue as our capacity remains limited and any bookings that are not redeemed become lost space.”
Rethink on deposits
HAY is calling on local and regional partners to promote the message of ‘Book Direct, Arrive and Enjoy’ to ensure that everyone can enjoy their hospitality experience this summer.
It is also calling for online travel agents (OTAs) and other platforms to re-think their deposit policy. Some now offer only a limited range of options which are causing a barrier to entry for many potential customers. Booking.com only allows no deposit – which is not feasible, or taking half or the full bill in advance. “This can be a real barrier for many of our customers and for an industry focused on welcoming people these options deliver the exact opposite,” said Rebecca Hill of HAY, and owner of Galtres Lodge on Low Petergate.
HAY members are expecting a strong showing for summer. Outdoor hospitality has already been very popular. One of their key problems is finding and retaining staff.
HAY will be looking to build on relationships with education partners, recruiters and the Jobcentre Plus Team to showcase how rewarding a career in hospitality can be.