The rising numbers of coronavirus infections and the spread of the new Omnicrom variant have failed to quell concerns amongst the Manx public. Sadly, the Island’s hospitality industry has taken a hit over the last two years with less people choosing to dine out and many local businesses fighting to stay open.
Islandlife spoke to member of the Isle of Man Victuallers Association and owner of local pub Quid’s Inn, Andy Saunders, to find out how the industry is coping.
What challenges have local food and drink businesses faced over the festive season?
We’ve suffered terribly. Many customers have understandably been cautious and concerned over the rising Covid on the Island and numbers have taken a hit. We all work hard to ensure our businesses are well ventilated, clean and as "covid-safe" as possible, so it’s disappointing to see our efforts not paying off, though we do understand why the public are anxious to go out, given the number of cases.
Why is it important that the hospitality sector receives the support of the public?
It is more than ever! The ongoing pandemic has halted a lot of business and every time we think we are turning a corner it seems that another issue is thrown at us. There will be long-term and damaging issues created in the whole Island's economy, and lifestyle, should we be allowed to fail, or be seriously damaged by Covid.
What reassurance can you give to the Manx public about continuing to go to restaurants, bars etc.
Most of our industry work extremely hard to ensure we have the best protocols available to help protect our customers and staff. For example, in my own business, we have invested in more air purification systems, top of the range clinical cleaning materials, increases in airflow and heating and have introduced strong cleaning protocols between each use of tables and seated areas to try and ensure minimal risk to customers.
Our industry is often cast as the "super-spreaders" but that’s rarely the case.
Have you seen a shift in numbers/bookings? Or have you seen cancellations?
Sadly, we’ve seen a lot of cancellations. The loss of business throughout this festive period has been worse than at any other time throughout the pandemic, with the exclusion of the strict lockdowns. Unfortunately, this has had a hugely detrimental effect on all our venues, especially the restaurant side of the industry, which are losing £100,000's of booking per day on the Island.
Where can people look if they are wanting to eat out, but are feeling cautious due to the rising spread of infections?
If you are concerned about eating out it’s worth contacting your favourite eateries and bars to ask them what precautions they have in place to help you out. Let’s work together to make sure everyone is comfortable and safe. Most venues will do their best to accommodate you if you have specific concerns, and every one of them needs your support more than ever now.
Is there enough support for businesses?
The public have stood strongly alongside all local businesses, whenever they have felt safe to do so. We all truly appreciate the efforts people have gone to help, with many customers making additional efforts throughout the summer months and last year.
We would urge people to follow guidance, and test before you go, but don't be afraid of going – we are working extremely hard to ensure our premises are as covid-safe as we can.
With regards to government support, well it's never going to be easy to support an industry in such difficulty, however we would appreciate any help from our leaders now. Too often we have heard that restaurants, bars, beauty salons, hairdressers and other lifestyle businesses really don't matter, with many thinking if one closes, another will take its place. However, these small businesses employ more than 70% of our Manx people and are an important part of our Island community.
How can people help?
All small independent local businesses cannot thank the great Manx public enough for all the support they have offered us throughout the pandemic, and we hope that those that feel safe to do so will continue to help to support us.
We'd love to see them come out and help with the money they've saved from the quiet Christmas period and the cancelled events, by rebooking and helping out their favourite businesses in what promises to be a hugely difficult start to 2022. We understand why people have been careful in the last few weeks, but please look to put that money back into the economy when you can.
How can The Government help?
To the government, we would again reiterate, that failing to support small businesses is a hugely false economy, as long-term loss of VAT receipts, employment opportunities and over standard of living and lifestyle will be damaged for many years to come.
How are things looking for January?
Many of us that operate hospitality businesses are an optimistic breed so we hope that with a supportive government, and the amazing public, we will get through this, and look forward to a fruitful and buoyant summer season, when we can welcome all visitors with open arms.