By Owen Hughes
Published on North Wales Live, 11/03/2020
The economic impact of coronavirus on the crucial tourism and hospitality sectors of North Wales is in focus with reports of cancellations and a fall in bookings.
With the number of UK cases rising in recent days to nearly 400 and that figure expected to surge in the coming days, then alongside the health implications the country is bracing itself for an economic hit.
For some in hospitality this is already being felt with reports of a drop in bookings and in some cases cancellations.
There are concerns that these problems will grow as cases increase and the possibility the UK could over time move to a full lockdown like Italy.
It is a mixed picture though because some operators are seeing more enquiries due to fears about flying abroad for spring and summer holidays.
There are hopes that any impact on the sector would be short lived and operators want support in place from UK and Welsh Governments to see them through any potential difficult period.
Nathan Cousins, group sales and marketing for St George’s Hotel in Llandudno, said: “We have had a few cancellations from guests concerned about the coronavirus and we are having some larger groups and conferences question our cancellation conditions should things worsen over the next few months.
“We are trying to keep as positive as possible, we are following all Government guidelines on ensuring an increased sanitisation in public areas and within back of house staff areas.
“We understand our customers are concerned but there is no reason at this stage to stop staying in hotels, going to restaurants or attending conferences.
"Just follow basic hygiene rules that everyone should do anyway, keep hands clean, cover your face when you sneeze or cough.”
Aberconwy AM Janet Finch-Saunders said she has been contracted by hoteliers - advising that they had seen a fall in bookings in recent days due to coronavirus.
She is speaking to Llandudno Hospitality Association to obtain more information and said she will look to raise this with Welsh Government to see what support could be available.
An owner of a holiday flat in Rhos-on-Sea told Business Post that after two years without a single cancellation she has had three people cancel in the last week.
Jim Jones, the chief executive of North Wales Tourism, said: “The picture is mixed. While some cancellations have been reported others have seen an increase in bookings for the summer and the message from North Wales is that we are still very much open for business, with lots of healthy fresh sea and mountain air and wonderful scenery to enjoy. Many hotels and attractions have already put additional hygiene measures in place and we are seeking the latest advice on best practice from the director of Public Health.”
David Evans, co-owner of North Wales restaurant group Dylan’s, said there is a lot of uncertainty.
He said a positive 12 months had first been hit by the storms in February.
He added: “Now we have a few concerns over the potential impact of coronavirus.
“To date, we’ve had one cancellation of an international event at our Llandudno restaurant, elsewhere things are holding up pretty well so far.”
He added: “The worry for us, I guess is that things get worse closer to the Easter period, which will have a massive impact on hospitality sector in North Wales if we get a sharp downturn in the number of visitors coming into the region.
“In terms of support, if this thing really gets out of hand, then of course we will need help and hope the Government would want to step in to support all businesses - suspending business rates, NI and tax contributions, for example.
“All businesses will suffer - tourism and hospitality will be hit particularly hard if movement is restricted and travel bans put in place, as is now the case in Italy.
"Its difficult to know how to play it to be honest, we don’t want to be panicked but we are having to think about the ‘what if’ scenario and plan to look after the interests of our staff - and of course our customers.”
Llandudno landowner Mostyn Estates managing director Edward Hiller said: “For domestic holidays, many are booked closer to the date of travel.
“Therefore, much has yet to unfold in the rapidly evolving situation.
“The Government will need to keep a close eye on things to ensure that business cashflow does not tighten markedly across the sector.
"Equally there may be additional costs placed on businesses, as a consequence of infections (eg disinfecting.) Depending on the nature of the business, this may be a significant.”
A Welsh Government spokesman said: “Visit Wales and the Welsh Government are carefully monitoring the ongoing situation and will review and adjust planned activity according to the situation.
"Tourism businesses and stakeholders in Wales are advised to visit the Business Wales website for specific guidance for businesses and to regularly visit the Public Health Wales website for up-to-date public health information.”