Hotelier closing for winter as tourism businesses face costs of living pressure

Tap to watch a video report by ITV News Meridian's James Dunham

A hotelier on the Isle of Wight has told ITV News it will be cheaper to close his business for the winter because of a predicted surge in energy bills.

David Groocock has been running St Maur's bed and breakfast in Ventor since 1989 and says he's never since anything like the current period.

His comments come as an exclusive survey, carried out by ITV News Meridian, revealed nine in ten hospitality and tourism businesses are worried about the impact of the cost of living on their business.

"I did a calculation, and gas alone would be about £2,000 a month. We can't afford to run the business on those sort of prices", said David.

"We like to keep the place aired and keep the heating, albeit low, so we're going to have to consider all sorts of things that we haven't had to consider before, because otherwise we'll be running at an extreme loss.

"I have never experienced anything like this at all in my career here."

What are businesses saying about the cost of living:

Paradox Place, Brighton's House of Illusions

Trade at the indoor attraction is down by half this summer compared to 2021 with the family run owners blaming the increased cost of living reducing consumer spending.

Dr Philly Harris said, "It has a huge impact on a small business like ours. We're having to reduce spending as much as we can.

"We very heartbreakingly had to let a few people go already and we were trying to think of other ways that we can save money at the moment.

"It's causing us a lot of worry. It would be very helpful to have more support measures in place.

"Something like cutting the VAT like we had we experienced during the COVID. That would be a huge help, and I think that would help a lot of small businesses as well."

Back to top

Walsh Tours in Southampton and Winchester

Actor and comedian Bryan Walsh runs historic walking tours in Southampton and Winchester.

He says the last few years have been relentless.

"Brexit, to the cost living crisis, the war in Ukraine, it's a storm on many fronts.

"I had one group here who had to cancel because two of their group were coming from Russia, and guess what, They weren’t making that tour were they?

“And multiply even that one tour impacted by war with Russia and Ukraine across the whole UK industry and that's going to be quite a surprising impact.

"Some might say it'd be great if the Government was a bit more supportive because it's been falling onto the shoulders of the operators and the individual tourists to get through these crises of COVID-19, Brexit and cost of living."

Back to top

Godstone Farm near the Kent/Sussex border

The 500 animals at Godstone Farm are blissfully unaware of the pressures being faced at the moment.

The cost of running the attraction has increased by 20% with feed going up in price and staff wages increased too as the farm tries to help workers through the crisis.

A difficult decision has been made to increase ticket prices to absorb some of the costs.

Chief executive Nicola Henderson says finding ways to attract guests as well as retaining staff is crucial,

"We've chosen to increase our staff wages to try and help them. Recruitment is such a challenge.

"The thought of losing key team members and having to recruit them is more expensive than trying to keep hold of them.

"Most businesses, certainly small businesses like this, like to know where they're heading, like to have a plan and stick to it and I can honestly say that the plan keeps changing, and it's just about reacting all the time to a new challenge."

Back to top

10to12 Folkestone Bed and Breakfast

In eight years - and not even during Covid - has 10 to 12 Folkestone Bed and Breakfast  seen a time quite like this.

Weekends are booming but weekdays are incredibly quiet, blamed on people working at home following the pandemic.

The effects of high inflation are plumping up prices on everything, laundry is up 20%, a £20 surcharge has been added to the waste collection bill and everyday breakfast items are regularly increasing in cost.

One half of the operations is Leigh Nevill who says the rises are sharp and stark,

"Butter has gone up from £4 to £5, which is huge. Jam has gone up from £1.60 to £2 and the crumpets up 30%.

"The quantities of things we buy is huge. So we probably go through, I don't know, eight lots of butters a week.

Mark Nevill says you have to try and put a brave face on the situation,

"When people turn up, you have to have they don't want to see people with a long face you know, sometimes you look at the figures at the end of the week and you you don't want a smile, but you have to.

"If it carries on as it does and the winter is as bad as it predicted, we may have to sort of like cut people's hours."

Back to top

The Orchards Holiday Caravan and Camping Park, Isle of Wight

The Orchards Holiday Caravan and Camping Park on the Isle of Wight is all too aware of the pressures currently being faced but it's doing everything possible to keep prices static.

Over the last year £1.5 million has been invested to upgrade the facilities in an effort to ensure the offering to visitors is fresh,

Marketing manager Bryony Butcher said, "The first thing that people are probably going to look to cut is probably their family holiday.

"We need to take into consideration that things like business rates being reintroduced. VAT is increased and obviously the price of inflation is going up.

"So for us, it does make things difficult. So we need to look at ways that we can pull things back, but not compromising on that quality of service that we give while people are on their holiday.

"We want to keep it affordable for families because there are so many tourism hotspots across the UK."

Back to top

Those concerns are echoed in our summer survey in which 5 in 10 told us they've needed to increase prices and a third expect to find an overall decrease in customers this summer compared to 2019.

Overwhelmingly, 9 in 10 worry about the impact of the increased cost of living will have on trade.

Business experts warn the autumn will be a tricky time for the tourism sector which is still recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Experience Oxfordshire, a company which looks to attract visitors to the county, has been doing its bit to promote the area.

Experience Oxfordshire have been releasing promotional videos to attract visitors Credit: Experience Oxfordshire

Seven million people a year would visit the city centre before the pandemic, but current figures suggest numbers across the county are down as much as 40%.

Chief executive, Hayley  Beer-Gamage said,

"There is a real challenge for our businesses, particularly in hospitality, because they are being hit by, increased energy prices by up to 300% on what they were previously.

"We have got huge staff shortages, and sometimes service levels can't hold up to what they should be, compromising quality and actually availability.

"We are urging government to really put some support measures in for the hospitality sector, because not only was it the first sector to be impacted in the pandemic and one of the most severely impacted, but this is now going on into a whole new level of crisis, the cost of living crisis.

"These hospitality experiences are so important for everything that is, you know, not just Oxfordshire, England, that is Great Britain.

"We need to make sure we support the sector so we have this thriving businesses in years to come. Otherwise, there's a genuine concern that we could see real closures of those businesses and we won't get them back".

Watch: Visitors in Brighton explain how the cost of living crisis is affecting their spending

Any further financial support will likely depend on the outcome of the Conservative leadership election.

A government spokesperson said:

"We understand that people are struggling with rising prices, and while we can’t shield everyone from the global challenges we face, we're supporting British businesses to navigate the months ahead.

"We’ve cut taxes for hundreds of thousands of businesses by increasing the Employment Allowance and slashing fuel duty.

"We’ve also introduced a 50% business rates relief for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses and put the brakes on bill increases by freezing the business rates multiplier, worth £4.6 billion over the next five years."