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Rural Hospitality Letter

Lyndhurst, Hampshire

The Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
10, Downing Street

Friday 1st May 2020

Dear Prime Minister,

Re: With the 2020 summer season all but written off for rural hospitality, longer term support and very careful reopening rules are required, if collapse of this sub sector and devastation of the rural economy is to be avoided.

I am writing to you as owner operator of The Pig Hotels and LimeWood, a South of England boutique hotel collection I have built over the past decade. We have invested close to £100m in rural Britain developing these hotels and created around 800 high quality permanent jobs in the process.
I am writing this letter personally, however, I know I speak on behalf of many rural hospitality business owners, a cross section of whom, employing circa 20,000 people, have chosen to support this letter.

So far
I would like to begin by thanking you for the Governments prompt support for the hospitality sector during this Coronavirus period. These initiatives have been vital lifelines for our survival. In particular the furlough scheme and CBILS have undoubtably prevented significant job loss.
My company alone has 782 staff furloughed and has secured £4m of CBILS, for which we are thankful. The Business Rates holiday is also appreciated.

Quite apart from the important cultural contribution. You will know Hospitality is the UK’s 3rd largest sector, employing 3.2m directly and a further 2.8m indirectly, or 9% of all UK jobs and 11% of all regional jobs.

Importance of rural Hospitality and the economic ripple
The post war demise of traditional rural employment has shifted to a reliance on tourism and hospitality. Despite its seasonal nature, the entrepreneurial flair and sheer creativity of the sector has enabled it to reach every corner of provincial Britain, often where no other enterprise or employment exists.

Rural Britain now delivers excellence in a diverse range of hospitality businesses. In particular the British food scene……it was not so long ago our food was viewed as a national embarrassment, but now British food tourism prospers. High quality rural food and wine producers, exciting bars, historic pubs, stylish restaurants and hotels are truly world class.
The economic ripple effect of hospitality on rural communities is of critical importance. Local tradesmen, contractors, shopkeepers, service stations, food and wine producers rely on hospitality and tourism to generate custom. As of course do the airlines, ferries, trains, coaches, buses and taxis.

Slim profits
Hospitality is a labour-intensive industry with high fixed costs and despite its success, operates with slim profit margins.
Many rural businesses live from hand to mouth, from season to season, with little or no cash reserves.
In the past few years the sector has been bombarded by an assault on these already slim margins. High rent rises, increased food and beverage costs, hikes in business rates, utilities, insurance and the new National Living Wage
For most of us, break-even occurs at 70% plus occupancy.
It is against this background and recognising the critical importance of hospitality to rural communities, that I wish to highlight the unique sensitivity of re-opening these businesses post lock down.

Social distancing and risk to reopening
Of paramount importance is the health and safety of our staff and guests. Whilst we are keen to open our businesses, we strongly support the national effort of the social distancing measures.
Many rural hospitality businesses operate from small premises or re-purposed buildings, 2 metre spacing is physically difficult to achieve.

Critically, it is the negative financial consequence of the increased spacing/restricted trade that causes the greatest concern. Spacing rules will undoubtably push many rural businesses below their break-even point.

The worst possible scenario for rural hospitality, would be the ‘perfect storm’ of furlough ceasing, hospitality opening up, but social distancing rules imposed……. This toxic recipe would immediately translate to mass redundancies and the permanent loss of hundreds of thousands of rural jobs. This would be economically and socially devastating for rural Britain.

Rural hospitality survival proposals: 
With successful reopening during 2020 looking unlikely, surviving the 20/21 winter period is the challenge. Support will be needed until 2021 season.

• Backdate furlough to include all employees up until 19th March 2020, not just those RTI registered. I believe this is what was the Chancellors intention but has got lost in Civil Service detail.
• Extend furlough and introduce a further developed, flexible, phased and part time scheme until end of Q1 2021.
• Extend Business Rates holiday until end of Q2 2021
• Rent assistance, up to 12 month rent free period to be added to end of leases. Government to set up landlord fund.
• Reduction in VAT for hospitality businesses 2020/21
• Further extension of time for repayment of deferred VAT/PAYE, allowing for normal trading to fund these payments.

Thank you in advance for taking the time to read this letter.

Respectfully yours


Robin Hutson
Chairman and CEO of Home Grown Hotels Ltd and LimeWood Group Ltd
Clayhill, Beechen Lane, Lyndhurst, Hampshire SO43 7DD 

Supported by

Rick Stein CBE and Jill Stein OBE - The Seafood Restaurant (Padstow) Ltd, Cornwall, Dorset, Wiltshire, Hampshire - 700 employees

Alex, Charlie and Olga Polizzi CBE – The Polizzi Collection, Cornwall, Devon, Sussex- 195 employees

Andrew Stembridge – Cliveden, Chewton Glen, The Lygon Arms, Berkshire, Hampshire, Worcestershire – 700 employees

Simon Emeny – Fuller, Smith and Turner, Central and Southern England – 2000 employees

Harry Murray MBE – Lucknam Park Hotel, Wiltshire - 130 employees

John Ilsley – East End Arms, Hampshire – 15 employees

Mark Hix MBE – Dorset – 25 rural employees

Nick Bannister - The Coniston Hotel, North Yorkshire – 200 employees

Jeremy Cassel – The Grange, Yorkshire – 48 employees

Mitch Tonks – RockFish Group, Devon, Cornwall, Dorset – 300 employees

Nicholas Dickinson – Congham Hall, Norfolk – 90 employees

Charles Luxton – The Beckford Arms, The Talbot, Lord Poulett Arms Wiltshire, Somerset, Dorset – 170 employees

Craig Bancroft – Northcote Manor, Lancashire – 80 employees

Dan Rose-Bristow – The Torridon and Chairman of Pride of Britain Hotels, 50 independent hotels throughout the UK – 5000 employees

Simon Berry – English Lakes Hotels, Cumbria – 600 employees

Lord and Lady Masham – Swinton Estate, North Yorkshire – 130 employees

David Nicholson – The Black Rat, The Black Boy, Hampshire – 40 employees

Nathan and Rachel Outlaw – Restaurant Nathan Outlaw, Cornwall – 32 employees

Mark Sargent – Rocksalt, Wife of Bath, Duke William, Smokehouse, Kent – 150 employees

Andrew Mckenzie – The Vineyard, Donnington Valley Hotel, Donnington Valley Golf Club,
Deanwood Park Golf Club, Barns Hotel, Berkshire, Bedfordshire – 389 employees

David Richards CBE – The Idle Rocks, Cornwall – 75 employees

Michael Caines MBE – Lympstone Manor, The Cove, Devon, Cornwall – 130 employees

Thomas Robinson – Headlam Hall, the Rose and Crown, County Durham – 110 employees

Mark Dodd – The Chesil Rectory, Hampshire – 45 employees

Lucy Townsend – The Greyhound, The Grosvenor, Hampshire – 120 employees

Will Ashworth – The Watergate Bay Hotel - Cornwall and Cumbria – 415 employees

Paul and Emma Ainsworth – No6 Padstow, Padstow Town House, Café Rojano, Mahe, The Mariners – Cornwall- 130 employees

Richard Ball – The Calcot Collection – Cotswolds and Northumberland – 450 employees

Tim Ruthven – Buccaneer Pubs, Glos, Herefordshire, Dorset, Devon – 270 employees

Paul and Fiona Robinson – Driftwood Hotel, Cornwall – 22 employees

Danny Peccorelli - Exclusive Collection. Surrey, Berkshire, Hampshire, Wiltshire, Hertfordshire and West Sussex- 800 employees

Emma Stratton - Bedruthan Steps Hotel and Scarlet Hotel, Cornwall – 300 employees

Joseph Farrar – Holdsworth House Hotel – West Yorkshire – 70 employees

Simon Mackaness and Peter Banks – Rudding Park Hotel, Yorkshire – 300 employees

Gordon Campbell-Gray – The Wee Hotel Co, Skye, Argyle, Hebrides – 131 employees

Peter Crome – The Carnegie Club, Sutherland – 190 employees

Malcolm Lewis – Chairman -Relais et Chateaux Hotels UK – 4000 employees

Paul Milsom – Milsom Hotels Ltd, Essex 

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