Whilst COVID-19 has affected businesses across the board, it is unfortunately likely to have a disproportionately adverse effect on the leisure and tourism sector, with businesses being unable to open or adapt work environments as those in other sectors have done.
With the Prime Minister announcing that we are now "past the peak" of the epidemic, thoughts will quickly turn to how restrictions can be relaxed. While leisure and tourism might be one of the last sectors to return to full operations, businesses can still take certain steps now to place themselves in the best possible position:
1. Stay on the right side of consumer law
The Competition and Markets Authority issued a recent warning to businesses reminding them to deal with customers fairly when it comes to the cancellation of events and bookings. The Consumer Rights Act 2015 gives consumers certain statutory rights and requires that you can't have clauses in your terms and conditions which are unfair or try to limit their statutory rights. When dealing with cancellations and refund requests businesses should ensure they stay within the confines of consumer law and seek professional advice if they are unsure.
2. Plan for high demand
Whilst businesses may find it hard to be too optimistic currently they should consider that the Government has amended regulations allowing workers to carry over some of their annual leave entitlement into the next two years. With the future of international travel and tourism unclear it may be that future demand for domestic tourism is high.
3. Keep informed
How the current restrictions are relaxed might vary widely. The lockdown might be eased first in certain sectors or regions or even for certain persons based on likely risk. It is important to keep informed with the latest Government guidance both nationally and locally.
4. Plan for new working practices
Businesses might want to start considering how they can adapt their practices when operations resume. This is likely to include a level of social distancing and for leisure businesses it will be particularly challenging to balance this against their current business model and cash flow requirements. Businesses should ensure that any considered measures are compliant with existing health and safety laws.
5. Look to the Continent
Countries such as Germany and Denmark are now starting to return from lockdown. Lessons could be learned from how the tourism and leisure sectors in those countries resume their operations.
If you have any concerns related to this topic, or if you would like any further information, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our Leisure & Tourism team.
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