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Unlocking Hybrid Hospitality Opportunity Will Rely On Unwavering Commitment to Health & Safety Amid New Lockdown Measures

Sep. 24 2020

With the emerging new ‘hybrid hospitality’ concept presenting a much-needed future income boost for the UK’s struggling hotel and leisure sector, Bureau Veritas has stated that unlocking this opportunity will rely on an unwavering commitment to health and safety (H&S) – particularly in light of new lockdown measures.

As this week saw the UK government ramp up measures to flatten the COVID-19 curve including recommended working from home, an early shutdown on pubs and restaurants and increased COVID-secure requirements for those operating in leisure and entertainment, the UK hospitality sector continues to incur huge losses.

Thus, the much talked-of ‘hybrid hospitality’ concept – the provision of a multi-functional space to stay, eat, work, collaborate and more – will no doubt come as an increasingly attractive future proposition for the industry as it seeks to generate new income in the future.

However, drawing on its experience of supporting some of the world’s biggest hoteliers, Bureau Veritas has asserted that the paramount importance of ensuring absolute best H&S practice cannot be underestimated when it comes to unlocking this emerging opportunity – especially amid new government measures.

Vicky Shah, Sector Lead Retail, Hospitality and FM for Bureau Veritas, said: “There is no doubt that the recent news of increased restrictions for the hospitality and leisure sector will have come as a huge knock to the already struggling industry. Added to the equation the fact that we are very much operating in a shifting landscape and it can be very difficult for the industry to make informed decisions around their future succession plans as it continues to react and adapt to new measures.

“One potential future focus we are aware of, for example, is the hybrid hospitality concept. With the lockdown set to leave of legacy of increased remote working and reduced office use, the concept of not just using a hotel for traditional use but for work purposes, socialising and more, will offer a major new revenue stream in time to come.

“However, it is incredibly important that, when it comes to the health and safety side of things, hospitality businesses ensure they have got their house fully in order before diversifying into this area.”

“Fundamentally, from our experience of working with many leading hotels during the pandemic, it is simply no longer enough to have a COVID-secure H&S strategy in place or even have a dedicated H&S manager. Rather, today’s increasingly cautious businesses are seeking impartial, third party verification that their hotel providers are operating in accordance with all appropriate H&S guidance. Many are even putting their hospitality requirements out to tender and effectively benchmarking hotels in relation to their H&S credentials as the key deciding factor, even above cost.

“In this way, by paying due diligence to their H&S protocol and using a third party expert to ensure they are following all required measures, hospitality businesses can not only ensure peace of mind but remain as competitive as possible amid this new opportunity.”

As part of new lockdown measures, as of 24th September all businesses selling food or drink must be closed between 10pm and 5am and, in licensed premises, food and drink must be ordered from, and served at, a table. All business, including those operating in the hospitality sector, will also face stricter rules to make their premises COVID Secure from 28th September with breaches subject to fines of up to £10,000 for repeated breaches.

As of 18th September the government previously announced that it will be mandatory for hospitality businesses to register their customers’ information as part of COVID-secure measures. Prior to this, official guidance has been recommendatory for the sector, meaning many establishments have taken action based on their own interpretation of best practice. At the same time, conflicting information and guidance from other major sources, including the World Health Organisation, continues to bring fresh confusion for many sectors.

Vicky adds: “The reality is that Coronavirus is still very much an unknown, meaning that information and best practice guidance from major establishments around the world, and our own government, continues to evolve and change as we come to learn more about it. As such, it can be incredibly challenging for the commercial market to keep up, particularly in the hospitality sector where everything from employee protection and occupational hygiene through to food and leisure safety must be accounted for.

“With this in mind, we would always recommend enlisting the support of an H&S expert, such as Bureau Veritas, who will be able to provide holistic, unbiased consultancy to ensure no stone is unturned in all aspects of safety, occupational hygiene and COVID-secure best practice. At a time when H&S is fast becoming the single most important deciding factor when choosing a hotel for major businesses, the investment in a five-star rating from an unbiased market expert is likely to pay dividends in the longrun.”