Important update: according to the new government guidelines, hotels, hostels, B&Bs, campsites, and boarding houses for commercial use must remain closed, unless they are temporarily hosting key workers or people whose primary residence is unavailable. Click here for more details.
How and where to find practical help:
With new cases reported in the news every few hours, it’s easy to get swept up in panic about future booking cancellations, the risk of coronavirus infection from guests and how it might affect your business. But do not forget that actually, most people who catch this virus are swiftly recovering.
Nevertheless, in these difficult times, it is important to know what measures you can take to protect yourself, your business and your guests. Whether this is about handling booking cancellations, saving whatever business you can, or preventing the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), we have gathered information from trustworthy sources so you can get well-informed and up-to-date on how to protect your business.
Help from the UK Government
On March 27th, the Chancellor announced a world-leading support scheme for the UK’s self-employed affected by the coronavirus outbreak, for full details click here.
Here are the highlights:
- Direct cash grants will be available to 80% of the profits of the self-employed, for up to £2,500 per month for at least 3 months.
- Those eligible will receive a cash grant worth 80% of their average monthly trading profit over the last three years. With payments in a lump sum covering all three months which are expected to start in June.
- The comprehensive scheme has been designed to cover 95% of people who make the majority of their income from self-employment. Bringing parity with the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
- Those with a trading profit of less than £50,000 in 2018-19 or an average trading profit of less than £50,000 from 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19, are eligible. To qualify, over half of their income during these periods has to have come from self-employment.
- Individuals should not contact HMRC now, they are using existing information to check eligibility and will then invite applications once the scheme is in operation.
On March 20th, the Chancellor announced even further “unprecedented” measures to protect workers:
- The government are committing to pay 80% of wages for employees not working as a result of the impact of Coronavirus, up to £2,500 a month.
- Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, made an appeal to employers during the crisis saying “Let me speak directly to businesses: I know it’s incredibly difficult out there – we in government are doing everything we can to support you.”
- The Prime Minister also ordered all pubs, restaurants, clubs, leisure centres and theatres to close as of today – March 20th. This decision will be reviewed on a monthly basis.
For local support services as well as local news regarding the coronavirus, click here and enter your postcode.
For news and further details you may consult the following sites:
As of March 16th, the UK government is urging us to work from home wherever possible and advising against any non-essential travel for the next 30 days. Click here for more on the latest travel bans across the globe.
The highlights on the March 16th extended measures for the Coronavirus Budget are:
- The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has set out a package of temporary measures to help support your business during the period of disruption caused by COVID-19. To find out what these are and how to benefit from them, click here.
- Additional tax breaks and other measures worth £20bn are made available to protect companies amid the economic situation caused by the virus.
- Cash grants of up to £25k are made available to retail, leisure and hospitality businesses that have a rateable value of £15k to £51k, to help them survive the period. Cash grants of up to £10k will be provided to the smallest businesses (no rateable value) across all eligible sectors of the economy. You will be able to access these facilities through your local authority, while the details of these two schemes are to be published by March 20th and early April respectively. For more details on how to access these click here. And to find out how to contact your local authority, click here.
- The Government Bank of England has agreed to provide direct loan guarantees for up to £5m to solvent businesses to help them through the crisis. For more information click here.
- Business rates will be scrapped this year for all companies in the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors. This will automatically apply to your next council tax bill in April 2020. Visit the government website for more on this, or get in touch with your local authority for any queries about your new bill.
- UK schools closed for all (except the children of keyworkers) as of Friday, 20th March, while exams and assessments for this academic year will all be cancelled.
Help from other organisations
Most banks are listening and are prepared to step in and help, given the additional guarantees and funding that the government has made available to them. The below partners of the British Bank are offering the Corona Business Interruption Loan Scheme, in addition to accepting applications for loan repayment and/or mortgage holidays. We have collated below the contact numbers for each bank, some of which are dedicated coronavirus hotlines.
We advise you to contact your bank immediately and explore:
- A temporary interest free loan
- An outright mortgage holiday during this time of crisis.
Click here for more information on the Corona Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS).
Most banks have set up emergency hotlines and should be especially sympathetic to hospitality businesses:
- Barclays – 0800 1971 086 *dedicated Coronavirus hotline
- HSBC – 08000 121 614 *dedicated Coronavirus hotline
- Santander – 0800 731 6666 *general line or 0800 0156 382 *Emergency Support line, with a request only used in genuine emergencies
- Lloyds – 0800 056 0056 *business banking line or 0800 783 3534 *mortgage queries
- Bank of Ireland – 0818 200 348 *dedicated Coronavirus hotline
- Metro Bank – 0345 0808 508 *business banking line or 0345 319 1200 *mortgage servicing team
- Natwest – 0345 711 4477 *business banking line
- RBS – 0345 600 2230 *business banking line
- TSB – 0345 8353 852 *business banking line or 0345 835 3380 *mortgage queries
- Ulster Bank – 0345 366 5592 *general line or 0345 300 6086 *mortgage queries
On March 4th, English authorities joined the Scottish and Northern Ireland governments in legally declaring COVID-19, coronavirus, as a “notifiable” disease. This is great news for your business, since it means you may be protected by your insurance against losses in revenue due to booking cancellations during this global health emergency.
Travellers, families, and businesses who are being negatively affected by the coronavirus outbreak are also likely to be covered by their insurance (or ABTA) if they are subject to a forced cancellation following a government lockdown for example.
However, the spread of Coronavirus is unprecedented in modern times and we understand this is an incredibly difficult time for families and businesses. Standard commercial insurance policies – the type the vast majority of businesses purchase – provide cover against a wide range of day to day risks. However, check the small print exclusions to make sure your particular does not exclude situations like the current pandemic. We strongly recommend that you check with your insurer or broker to confirm the type of cover that you have purchased.
For more advice on what your Travel, Business or Income Protection Insurance could cover, click here. And for more advice from the Country Land & Business Association supporting rural businesses, click here.
Online Travel Agencies
Everyone in the industry is bracing for a high level of cancellations to avoid the spread of the infection. OTAs are trying hard to ease the burden for the guests who book with them while retaining their long term loyalty by making the corona-related cancellation process as easy as possible.
Whilst bookings received via OTAs remain technically subject to the cancellation policies that you have set, OTAs have the ability to override these in special circumstances like the one we are currently facing.
Online travel agencies have announced the measures they are taking to protect travellers and hosts alike, including the extensions of their Force Majeure Policy.
For the latest advice from OTAs on coronavirus and booking cancellation policies follow the links below:
Expedia – Non-refundable rates and rates with a cancellation penalty amount due from the time of booking
Expedia is no longer displaying any rates on their points of sale with the above conditions on a rolling basis for bookings made with stay dates between 3 – 60 days in advance.
For additional advice provided by some OTAs on how to handle hosting guests and mitigate the effects to your business, follow the links:
New Healthcare / Critical Worker Initiative
Airbnb have launched a new campaign to help crucial healthcare workers register and find accommodation via their platform during this period
In eviivo suite, you can automatically cancel an OTA booking under the Force Majeure policy in just one click. Find out how here.
For more information on the latest OTA measures, please visit our dedicated eviivo university page here
What are eviivo doing to help?
First of all, it is important to remember that eviivo is, itself, a small business dedicated to the independent accommodation sector. Like you, we are trying to survive this difficult period while looking after our employees and their families. Like you, we are trying to apply for relief where possible, as indicated in the previous sections.
While bookings are your livelihood, your subscription is our livelihood.
When our customers hurt, we hurt. So your survival is key to our survival.
We are in this together. And we will do whatever we can to help within the limits of our own capabilities! We have therefore taken the following measures:
- First, we have created these dedicated coronavirus pages to share information faster with you. This is NOT meant to be a substitute for official government information sites, but we hope it will help you navigate through the current situation. We are constantly monitoring new developments as they relate to the hospitality industry.
- Days before the government announced any relief program, we opened a petition with parliament and wrote to MPs to ask that the Government provide B&Bs and Vacation Rental businesses with an immediate mortgage holiday. The petition is currently under review. Having gained the necessary initial votes, we hope it will soon be released. We kindly ask for your support in this.
- We are starting a series of online exchanges where, together, we can share ideas on the best coping strategies through this difficult period. We welcome any ideas and suggestions you would like to share with your hosts. Click here to participate.
- We have offered an extended free period to new customers to encourage them to sign up with eviivo – new sales are as critical to eviivo’s survival as new bookings are critical to your business. We are not trying to ignore existing customers, but we need to encourage new ones, in order to ensure we continue to be able to support you through this period.
- We have temporarily enabled free access to Promo Manager and Guest Manager software for all existing customers, to help you communicate more effectively with guests, or, if possible, provide incentives for new bookings as long as these comply with the safety measures listed below to fight the spread of coronavirus, just as we do ourselves at eviivo. Click here to find out how to use My Promo Manager, and click here to find out how to use My Guest Manager.
- We have developed “model” emails, including confirmations, cancellations and payment requests to help you find the words to communicate with your guests in these unprecedented circumstances. We also show you how you can modify your booking pages to find out where the guest is coming from and show potential guests the measures you are taking to protect against coronavirus. Our activation team can help you implement these.
- We have released a new set of reports to help you 1) see into the future more clearly how your business is being affected and 2) apply for relief as it may help you justify your needs to your local authority.
- For accommodation providers who can and want to remain open, we have come up with sample promotional incentives to help you convert as many bookings as possible in these hard times. And we will continue to advertise your offers on toprooms and on the National B&B site free of charge. We will be releasing these shortly.
- We have set toprooms, our community website, at ZERO % commission.
- Finally, we have collated – and will continue to collate – suggestions from everywhere on what accommodation providers can do during this crisis. For example:
- offer daytime low-cost home-working capabilities with good wifi to people who are not easily able to work from home.
- rent your cottage or apartment to people who need to self-isolate but cannot do so in their own home – including possibly other accommodation providers who wish to keep their own business open, but have one member of the family who needs to self-isolate.
- address alternative accommodation needs in your community – paid by local authorities. For example, accommodate health-workers, police or military, and other critical workers who need to stay near their place of work, provide shelters to the homeless or families who are waiting for council accommodation to help stop the spread of Corona, if you are near a hospital, as well as your usual accommodation offerings.
- provide day-time accommodation for adolescents or children out of school (under 10, not large groups) to relieve parents who need to work.
Whatever we can do, we will do. But we are unable to cancel subscriptions. If we did this, it would jeopardize our ability to support you, our employees and their families. We will, nevertheless, be compassionate and give priority to customers who are not able to get government relief, are in the greatest need, and have always been staunch loyal supporters of eviivo.
We believe that we will all come through this stronger, together. But in the meantime, we need to be patient. We hope that the ideas we share on our coronavirus pages and in our podcasts will give you some inspiration as we continue to do all we can.
COVID-19 has hit the hospitality industry more than any other sector. Yet, despite the challenges ahead, this is a good time to rethink your strategy so you can make the most of this difficult period for the well-being of your business. Following the recent travel ban, UK nationals are turning to local accommodation providers. And maybe now is the time to do all these things you have had the time to worry about earlier: prepare a new look for your business – online or offline – learn new technologies or put in place new things that will help you restart in pole position once the COVID crisis has passed.
If you want to discuss this further, feel free to get in touch with one of our experts.
Tune into our supportive podcasts and webinars around COVID-19
Podcast 1 released March 20th:
- The key impacts COVID-19 has had on accommodation businesses in the hospitality sector.
- Advice on where you can get financial help for your business.
- If you are still wanting to stay open for business, we discuss ideas on what you can do to pick-up any of the demand that may still be out there now and once this is all over.
- Suggestions on how you might diversify your offerings to meet current societal needs.
- Top-line suggestions on what you can be doing to put your business in the best possible position to capture bookings online when demand eventually returns.
Podcast 2 released March 27th:
David Weston, CEO of the B&B Association, updated us on the latest key discussion points around COVID-19 within Government on behalf of B&Bs. We also discussed 4 key things businesses can be doing now to help them be in the best possible position to capture online demand when it returns:
- Your website must work well on all devices; and be clear, and easy to navigate – Marta
- Make your website drive direct bookings for you – Waffa
- Great content is key, especially photos, on every page – Paul
- Clear pricing and an easy way to book and/or pay online – Jane
Webinar 1 recorded March 25th:
This was the first of eviivo’s live webinars designed to help everyone share their creative ideas on how to deal with these challenging times, and ask questions regarding the current situation.
This episode included:
- The very latest from David Weston, CEO of the B&B Association lobbying for B&Bs with the Government
Accommodation businesses seeing new sources of demand during the current crisis
- How you can help by offering your beds to key workers using our Stays for Heroes initiative
- What businesses can be doing right now to best prepare for when demand returns
And much more…
Join our Stays for Heroes Initiative
The UK government is seeking to place key workers in safe accommodation, so they have a place to stay close to their work and can recuperate enough to push through the challenging days ahead. We are calling on all hosts and hoteliers to help – if you are in a position to do so without risking your own safety or breaching the Government guidelines. With this in mind, we’ve launched our Stays for Heroes initiative, where we aim to facilitate the placement of key workers into much-needed accommodation.
We recognise it is a challenging time for many businesses in the hospitality sector, but we encourage, given the community spirit of this initiative, hosts to offer a discount or promotion to key workers if you feel that you are in a position to do so.
To find out more details and how to sign up, click here.
Protecting yourself, your family and your guests
Source: World Health Organisation
- If you think that you or one of your guests is infected, In the UK, call NHS 111.
- If you think you are, yourself, in a high-risk group, because of your age or an underlying health condition, you should consider closing your business temporarily. Please do contact your local authority, bank and insurance to ask them to provide you with the appropriate relief in these extraordinary circumstances. If only one of your close relatives is affected, and you would rather not close your business, consider renting a place temporarily for self-isolation if you can afford to.
- For more up to the minute health advice consult
- There is little testing going on in the UK at present. However, some organisations are offering test kits by posts.
- But please be wary of scams. The police have signalled that some crooks are calling or going door to door, pretending to be the NHS. Always refer to official sources only.
Reducing the spread of infection
- When you or an employee are cleaning the property, wear gloves and thoroughly wash your hands afterwards.
- Educate all your employees on the symptoms of coronavirus and how to reduce the risk of infection.
- Offer complimentary hand sanitiser and tissues to guests on arrival.
- Use rubber gloves when handling used dishes and silverware.
- When cooking for your guests, thoroughly cook all meats and eggs.
For more tips and advice on how to protect your business and employees and helpful guidance for employers consult:
Update on National B&B Week 2020 Updated 16/03/2020 Following the latest government