12th April 2021 is a date that will go down in history for many of us in England: the day pubs and restaurants were back in business. Alright, not completely open, but we can drink a beer somewhere other than a park or private garden, and that’s something to be celebrated.
Despite this glimmer of hope, we mustn’t forget that the hospitality and leisure industries have been two of the hardest hit by the pandemic over the last year. With record job losses and talks of vaccine passports, the fallout from Covid-19 continues to ravage these sectors on a daily basis. With non-essential indoor retail back on the cards, many are questioning why hospitality can’t follow suit ‘ a debate which has recently been taken to the high court.
Outdoor leisure is making a comeback too, but indoor experiences have had to be modified. Spas can welcome guests for day trips only, and guests aren’t allowed to use the sauna or steam room. It’s hoped they’ll be back to full functionality on 17th May, providing all goes well.
The sectors are as eager to reopen as we are for human connection. While the last year has brought us virtually closer together than ever before, it has robbed from us interactions and sharing experiences with one another in real life, for which the hospitality and tourism businesses find themselves at the heart.
Adapt to survive
Having to close for a large majority of the past year has undoubtedly been problematic for a number of suppliers. Despite this, Covid-19 has forced businesses to adapt ‘ and the pandemic has showcased the innovation and spirit it takes to stay afloat. Some have effectively pivoted their businesses, offering digital and at-home products, while others have taken the time to reflect and improve pre-existing processes.
One of Virgin Experience Days’ suppliers, Eastnor Pottery, cites the first lockdown as a blessing in disguise, using the time as an opportunity to revise core admin practices. Now, they feel more efficient than ever, having streamlined their booking functionality online and being able to offer a more bespoke and considered experience to their customers.
Easing of restrictions and purse strings?
Earlier this year, the Bank of England’s Chief Economist predicted UK households has amassed excess savings of about £250 billion as a result of the pandemic, leading to a forecasted spending spree this summer. This trend is reflected in our own data, where we’ve seen a huge jump in sales since restrictions eased, as consumer confidence and the desire to spend time with one another grows.
For example, hot air balloon ride purchases are up 77% year on year against the same period prior to the lockdown roadmap, with searches up 103%. Zoos are proving popular ‘ searches are up 42% against the same period, and it seems the British public are eager to cling onto some semblance of a summer holiday, with searches for hot tub breaks up a whopping 367% year on year.
As the days get longer, the weather improves and more restrictions are eased, the reality of a Great British Summer feels closer than ever ‘ to be approached with cautious optimism, of course.
Businesses that are eagerly awaiting the 17th May and 21st June dates must take the time to get ahead of the game and prepare staff as much as possible, in order to capitalise on the huge amount of pent-up demand for experiences that contrast the monotony of lockdown life. This means ensuring high standards of health and safety measures to reassure potentially cautious returning customers, and investing in outdoor spaces to create an entertaining and unique experience.
Consumer confidence is recovering and appetite for experiences will continue to grow, ensuring the hospitality and leisure industries are given the best chance to fight back.