Hotels bosses in Bristol say they have been hit by a 60 per cent drop in bookings due to fears over the Omicron variant, sparking an urgent call from the region’s mayor for increased support for struggling businesses in the city.
Clifton is usually a top destination for holidaymakers over the Christmas period with a rich collection of shops, restaurants and hotels.
But Clifton Group, which runs The Clifton Hotel, The Berkeley Square Hotel, The Washington and the Rodney Hotel, said it was ‘looking at an occupancy of just 25 per cent’ this Christmas instead of the usual 85 per cent.
It added that bookings for dates in the future have also ‘completely dried up’ after suggestions that there could be a two-week ‘circuit breaker’ imposed at the end of December.
Natasha Hayes said: “We’re very concerned that New Year’s Eve won’t go ahead which is extremely challenging.
“The busy period leading up to Christmas and New Year’s Eve are crucial to restaurants as they go a long way to help off-set the losses that we then incur in January and February when demand is weak.”
It’s not just hotels that are struggling to keep afloat - restaurants, shops, beauticians and hair salons have also been hit by cancellations, a lapse in bookings and staff shortages as the pandemic wages on.
Earlier this week Paul Kemp, owner of Beerd Craft Beer and Pizza on St Michael’s Hill, told BristolWorld he had been forced to ‘refund 200 people’ in the last week, adding: ‘I am exhausted by it all’.
The Michelin-starred Wilsons Restaurant in Redland also announced it would temporarily shut up shop over Christmas after a number of staff tested positive for Covid.
It comes as a collection of city groups, including Visit Bristol, Bristol City Centre Business Improvement District and Bristol Food Union penned a letter to Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak warning that strong local business was ‘collapsing’.
The letter called for increased support for businesses from the government including sector specific furlough and the allocation of extra funds to local authorities for support grants.
Metro mayor Dan Norris said the region’s hospitality sector was ‘on the edge’ after Boris Johnson imposed ‘a lockdown by stealth’.
“As the PM is dithering restaurants, pubs and hotels are withering,” he added.
“A week is a long time in politics but it doesn’t seem to be long enough for the Chancellor to come up with a plan.
“The hospitality sector needs help right now.
“The package can be time limited but while we all get jabbed businesses need a booster of their own.”
Latest figures on Covid cases in the city show 85,020 people have been infected after an increase of 2,236 cases over the weekend.
The rate of infection in Bristol now stands at 18,250 cases per 100,000 people, higher than the England average of 17,208.
The last published count of Omicron variant cases in the city on December 15 was 119.