News and updates from the Bed & Breakfast Association

Thursday, 25 February 2021

Covid-safe B&Bs are "self-contained" accom so should open on 12 April - delaying to 17 May will cost us £350 million

We believe that B&Bs, guesthouses and hotels operating under the Covid-safe protocols developed last year should be allowed to open on 12 April rather than 17 May.  That five weeks makes £350 million of difference to B&Bs and guesthouses in England.

Under the Government's "Roadmap" to opening for England, in Step 2, on 12 April earliest (p34 of Roadmap document): “Overnight stays away from home in this country will be permitted and self-contained accommodation - those that do not require shared use of bathing, entry/exit, catering or sleeping facilities - can also reopen [same household only]".

Five weeks later on Step 3, on 17 May earliest (p37): “Remaining accommodation, such as hotels, hostels and B&Bs” [can open]

The B&B Association has told UK Government officials that hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses have self-contained accommodation under the Covid-safe protocols agreed with Government last June.  These allow NO  shared bathrooms or shared catering facilities (eg shared kitchens).

The key issue therefore turns on the phrase “shared entry/exit” - which alone makes the difference (in the Government's official Roadmap) between opening on 12 April (if no shared entry/exit) and opening on 17 May.   That difference is five weeks of the Spring season - a huge amount of potential sales turnover for hotels, guesthouses and B&Bs.   Based on the ONS figures for our sector from 2019, we estimate that this five weeks equates to some £350 million of booking value (sales turnover) for B&Bs and guesthouses in England.

On a STRICT interpretation of “shared entry/exit”, ie that guests use the same entrance to access the building, almost all hotels, guesthouses and B&Bs do have “shared entry/exit”. However:

    •    The entrance and corridors are subject to Government-agreed Covid-safe cleaning Protocols; and
    •    Exactly the same criteria (shared entry/exit) applies to indoor leisure (including gyms), personal care premises, non-essential retail, indoor parent & child groups, and libraries and community centres - ALL of which ARE allowed to open in Step 2 on 12 April.

Last April, May & June a vast amount of work was undertaken on this, primarily by UK Hospitality, who developed Protocols for Covid-safe operation for hotels, which were agreed with the Cabinet Office.  We worked with them to adapt these to a B&B and guesthouse context - the guidance document is here.

It is designed to ensure social distancing in properties, and entails radical changes to breakfast service etc to ensure Covid transmission risks are minimised.

So we question whether hotels, guesthouses and B&Bs following the Covid-safe operating protocols agreed with Government should be subject to a further five weeks delay on reopening and lose a further £350 million, simply because guests use the same main entrance?   They pass through corridors cleaned to Covid safe standards, and stay in individual rooms, not mixing with other guests.

The management of such businesses will be ensuring that all touchpoints are cleaned appropriately, on the entrance itself and in corridors to guest bedrooms.
 
Guests arrive via a main entrance, whose cleaning of touchpoints is subject to Government-agreed Covid-safe protocols, before going through a Covid-safe, socially distanced check-in procedure then proceeding to their individual self-contained accommodation in guest bedrooms with dedicated bathrooms.   The coridoors and common ways are also of course subject to Government-agreed cleaning regimes under the Covid-safe protocols.
 
Finally of course, the Government is itself currently placing guests in “quarantine hotels” which have “shared entry/exit”, so clearly this is not seen as unsafe per se in the context of a Covid-safe hospitality property.

So we believe that hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses following Covid-safe protocols should be classed as “self-contained” accommodation for these purposes, and so should be allowed to open from 12 April rather than 17 May.
 
 
 
UPDATE 12 March: The Welsh Government  has now announced that, subject to a review on 25th, B&Bs, guesthouses & hotels will open on 27th March in Wales. The Welsh Government count B&Bs as “self-contained” accommodation for the purposes of opening on 27 March - as we have been arguing (see above) to the UK Government should be the case in England.  We continue to put this case via officials at the tourism department (DCMS).
 
 
 UPDATE 23 March: Government confirm 17 May date for B&Bs & hotels
The UK Government have finally confirmed that, despite the lobbying by the B&B Association and UK Hospitality, hotels and B&Bs will still be classed as NOT "self-contained" for the purposes of the reopening roadmap, so cannot reopen for leisure guests before 17 May.  The full explanatory text we received from an official at the Tourism Department (DCMS) is below:

Accommodation and Step 2 of the Roadmap

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Steps) (England) Regulations 2021 have been published in relation to the roadmap steps. 

 

I would like to clarify some queries that have been raised regarding the reopening of accommodation and can confirm the agreed Government position is that:

 

  • From Step 2, no earlier than 12 April, separate and self-contained accommodation will be open for leisure stays. This is defined as accommodation in which facilities (kitchens, sleeping areas, bathrooms and indoor communal areas such as: lifts, staircases, lounges, sitting areas and internal corridors for entry and exit) are restricted to exclusive use of a single household/support bubble. A reception area is not to be treated as a shared facility or indoor communal area if they are required in order to be open for check-in purposes.

What can open:

  • At Step 2, accommodation in which all facilities listed above are for the exclusive use of a single household/support bubble may open. This will mean that holiday parks, ‘standalone’ holiday lets such as houses and cottages, chalets, yurts, holiday boats, and motels which do not rely on sharing those facilities listed may open.

 

  • Campsites and caravan parks will be permitted from Step 2 provided that the only shared facilities used by guests at the campsite or caravan park are washing facilities, toilets, water points and waste disposal points. These facilities should be operated so as to ensure no household mixing takes place. This would involve either assigning shower facilities to one household group/support bubble, (i.e. making them private), or running a reservation and clean process (whereby one household can exclusively book the shared facilities for a fixed time, and the facilities are cleaned between reservations and kept well-ventilated).


  • All accommodation may continue to open for the current permitted reasons, such as to provide accommodation for those who are unable to return to their main residence; for the homeless; for those who need accommodation for work, education or training purposes; for those who need to attend medical appointments; or for those self-isolating as required by law including for the Managed Quarantine Service for high risk international arrivals.


What cannot open:

  • This phased approach to reopening means that the rest of the sector will follow at Step 3. We recognise that between now and Step 3 this means a continued closure of hotels, hostels, B&Bs, guest houses and any other accommodation that relies on sharing these facilities. This will also require the continued closure of any holiday lets or serviced accommodation within apartment buildings that share any of the facilities listed above.

 

  • From Step 3, no earlier than 17 May, all remaining accommodation will be permitted to reopen for leisure stays.

 

Step 2 will also see the reopening of non-essential retail; personal care facilities and close contact services such as beauty salons, spas and massage centres (except for steam rooms and saunas); and indoor sports and leisure facilities such as gyms and swimming pools. Where these facilities are located within a hotel or other guest accommodation, they are permitted to reopen and can be accessed - if necessary - from inside the building i.e. without the requirement for direct street access, though businesses should continue to comply with COVID-Secure guidance to mitigate transmission risk. Outdoor hospitality which is permitted to open at Step 2,  located on a hotel premises or other guest accommodation, may also reopen, and customers will be permitted to use indoor toilets as required.


Rationale:

The government recognises the significant contribution that hotels and similar accommodation have made by providing their services for managed quarantine, sheltering rough sleepers and other vulnerable groups, and providing safe accommodation for a variety of legally permitted reasons throughout the last year. 

 

However, the Government has set out its plan to allow cautious and gradual reopening of the economy. This is a phased roadmap and we are not opening the sector in one go, meaning leisure stays in different types of accommodation will be permitted gradually alongside the phased reopening of other businesses and services. This is because we need to act cautiously to keep prevalence low and avoid the need for re-escalation. As TIC members have indicated, reopening and then having to close again would be far more damaging than a phased reopening. 

 

Although cases are in decline, the SPI-M scientific modelling shows that opening too early or too quickly risks a further surge which could overwhelm the NHS, leading to another lockdown. As a result, accommodation that relies on the shared use of indoor facilities will not open for leisure stays for a further 5 weeks until Step 3 while we assess the impact of reopening at Step 2. 

 

Further, in aggregate Step 2 prioritises outdoor activity over indoor activity, and activity within households rather than between them. The likelihood of transmission is substantially lower in the open air rather than indoors. Travel and tourism inherently involves a lot of travel across the country, as well as household mixing. Allowing both the opening of all guest accommodation and household mixing before more of the population is vaccinated would substantially increase the risk of the NHS being put under unsustainable pressure. 

 

The approach we are taking is slow and cautious, to ensure it is irreversible. A number of measures have been put in place to assist the sector prior to reopening and to return to profit upon reopening. These include the extension of the furlough scheme, VAT cut and business rates relief, the new restart grants, a new loan scheme and the Help to Grow scheme.

 

Our guidance for Hotels & Other Guest Accommodation will be updated in advance of each step of the roadmap with further detail.

 
 
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The Bed & Breakfast Association is the UK trade association for owners of B&Bs, guesthouses and small independent hotels.  We are here to inform, support and represent our members. Membership is just over £1 a week and you can join us online here.
 
 
 
 
 
 

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