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Mon 21st Dec 2020 - Update: UKHospitality letter to PM and Escape Hunt
UKHospitality urges PM for more financial help for sector following tightening of restrictions and ‘clear exit strategy’ from crisis: UKHospitality has written to prime minister Boris Johnson to urge for more help for the industry following tightened coronavirus restrictions in the form of a more generous compensation scheme for affected businesses – and a “clear exit strategy” from the crisis. The letter calls on the government to devise and implement a compensation scheme that brings England “at least into line with Wales and Scotland, preferably raising the bar to equivalence with countries such as Germany”. The trade body also urged Downing Street to extend the cut in the VAT rate until at least the end of the year and reintroduce a business rates holiday for 2021-22 to “avoid the April cliff edge that threatens survival” for businesses. UKHospitality has asked Johnson to commit to working with the industry early in the new year on a clear exit strategy and route map “setting out clear metrics and mitigations to allow for reopening”. It also called for the reduction and removal of business restrictions to be linked to the roll out of the vaccination and rapid testing “to allow more parts of the sector to trade”. Part of the letter states: “The announcement of another shutdown for hospitality was this time all the more difficult to stomach for the tens of thousands of businesses that had prepared and stocked up for Christmas, only to see their supplies now going to waste. Livelihoods are being destroyed in front of our eyes, and the impact on the sector and our communities will be long-lasting. We need a signal of government’s intent to de-escalate the tiers and that support is forthcoming to sustain investment over the winter. It must be realised furlough is not enough on its own to protect jobs, as it still costs business to keep people on and relies on those businesses remaining solvent. It is too late for the many hospitality businesses that have already failed but, although the profitable Christmas period has been effectively wiped out, there may be time to rescue other companies heading toward the same fate. While it is vital this plan is activated urgently, it cannot make up for the financial damage that has devastated the sector since the introduction of tiered restrictions (or earlier for areas that faced them in advance of their codification into a national system). The current support package of grants is simply inadequate and leaves businesses on the verge of collapse, taking on even greater debt and depleting any remaining cash reserves. If these [asks] are delivered, there is hope this sector can recover and return prosperity across the country in the speediest manner. We urgently need government to engage with us on both a return to trading and the right level of business support now and into 2021.”

Escape Hunt reports digital and remote play performance ‘surpassing expectations’: Escape room operator Escape Hunt has reported its digital and remote play performance is “surpassing management’s expectations” and “significantly offsetting the reduction in site revenues” arising from coronavirus restrictions. The company launched its strategy to develop products that could be played remotely and could be delivered digitally, and would form a core part of the “Escape Hunt for Business” proposition, in the spring. Escape Hunt stated: “So far in December, across six digital propositions aimed at the business-to-business market specifically, the company has delivered almost 200 bookings, comprising more than 1,000 corporate teams and more than 6,000 individuals. As a testament to the scalability of the products, the largest attendance in a single game had 347 people split between 57 teams playing in the same game all hosted by the company's in-house delivery team. The digital strategy was initially launched with the successful release of print-and-play games in April, which ultimately led to an agreement with Netflix to develop a game based on the Netflix original film, Enola Holmes. This suite of games is still proving popular with consumers and the downloads are not included in the numbers above. Moreover, with the licensing agreement announced in September enabling the company to develop and market proprietary games, there are now 17 products on offer across a number of propositions. With the UK continuing to face strict rules regarding socialising and mixing, the development of the digital suite is timely, as consumers wishing to enjoy our experiences are able to do so virtually if not physically.” Chief executive Richard Harpham said: “We are delighted with the success of this important part of our strategy to date. We have benefited enormously from the fact companies have looked to offer their staff a remotely delivered social event for Christmas in light of the coronavirus restrictions. The success has demonstrated our ability to deliver large-scale events remotely, which we believe can be applied to a number of business-to-business opportunities outside Christmas and the coronavirus pandemic. This would include corporate team building events, learning and development, outdoor events, and conferences. We will continue to invest in this part of our business as we seek to build on our success, create greater scalability within our products, and deliver a successful digital business to sit alongside our hugely popular physical rooms.”

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