Hospitality sector 'may never recover' in Wales, bosses warn

Business owner from across Wales' hospitality sector have warned thousands of jobs are at risk in the industry which "may never recover" from the coronavirus pandemic.

Following the First Minister’s announcement on the easing of restrictions, where he warned the hospitality industry was not in a position to reopen, the Wales Independent Restaurant Collective (WIRC) said the sector now faces an "existential battle" to keep businesses alive.

Mr Drakeford said the Welsh Government had used "every bit of headroom" to announce the reopening of non-essential retail shops, hairdressers and some areas of the tourism sector.

The hospitality sector employs around 135,000 people in Wales and the WIRC is warning that without further support urgently, there will be "job losses in the coming weeks" as many restaurants, pubs and cafés could close for good.

It warned closures of such businesses would create a "lost generation of entrepreneurs" with many working in the sector aged between 18-30.

In a survey of hospitality 92 businesses carried out by the WIRC, only 7% of respondees were confident their business would still be operating at the end of the year. 72% of businesses said it was considering redundancies as a result of lockdown, and 23% are considering closing their business permanently.

Natalie Isaac, Director of the 44 Group, which owns restaurants in Cardiff, said they were "disappointed" at Friday's announcement.

“The hospitality sector is also integral to the tourism industry in Wales, so it is surprising that the link between tourism and hospitality has not been recognised.

"This also makes the need for sector specific support ever more urgent for our sector, to prevent jobs losses and businesses from closing and we are calling on the First Minister and Ken Skates to commit to additional funding from the next tranche of Economic Resilience Fund to ensure our sector is able to re-open whenever Welsh Government does allow that. Without that, our sector may never recover.”

Some restaurants have already partially reopened for takeaway. Credit: PA

Edmund Inkin, one of two brothers running restaurant The Felin Fach Griffin near Brecon since 2000 said, “The support to date from UK and Welsh Government in the shape of business rate relief, grants and the furlough scheme has been welcome.

" As we speak, business owners’ only options are becoming job losses or closure. As forced closure is extended for hospitality, further financial support is needed urgently to prevent this happening. If we don’t sort this out now, the impact on all areas of Wales and on the life prospects for thousands becomes very grim indeed.”

During Friday's press conference, Mark Drakeford said the Welsh Government will use the next three weeks to "talk with the hospitality industry."

"Coronavirus is not over. Giving people certainty in an inherently uncertain world would be a very false certainty indeed.

"There are only so many steps you can take at any one time. I’ve not been able to say today to the hospitality industry that there are imminent plans to reopen."