The third and final blog in this series focuses on the critical role of communication and collaboration as well as the financial considerations operators should be thinking about.
Hosted by The Cumberland’s Senior Business Lending Manager, Grant Seaton, the virtual roundtable featured leading holiday let experts Joby Mussell, Chief Commercial Officer at holiday letting agency, holidaycottages.co.uk; Gill Haigh, Managing Director at Destination Management Organisation, Cumbria Tourism; and Fiona Campbell, Chief Executive of the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers.
Communication and collaboration remain critical
The four experts agreed the significant role communications has played and will continue to play as the sector navigates the pandemic.
“Having a strong and clear communications strategy has been absolutely vital over the past six months, both in terms of how we as an industry and body can support our members, and in terms of how they can manage their guests,” explained Gill.
“As a sector, we have adapted spectacularly to the situation and built relationships across the broad hospitality spectrum – it’s vital we maintain and build upon these relationships as the weeks and months progress.”
This is echoed by Fiona: “Joining forces with sector colleagues and collaborating on key factors affecting our members has proved to be a massive support, not just for our members but for the ASSC as a whole. I’ve no doubt that once the pandemic has passed, we will look back and think, despite the incredible challenges we faced, we have made some brilliant relationships and helped thousands of operators.”
From a financial and cash flow perspective, Gill recommended, where appropriate, operators use the 15% VAT reduction as a sales opportunity. Reviewing staffing levels and costs should also form part of the forecasting and financial planning process alongside considering how the Jobs Support Scheme could be used.
To this, Grant added: “It’s also important that operators keep a direct line of communication open with any provider of finance to ensure efficient support is identified and put in place if and when it is needed.”
While Rishi Sunak’s Jobs Support Scheme was welcomed, the panel agreed that for self-catering operators, the focus should be less on the jobs scheme and more on cashflow support.
“Wage costs for smaller self-caterers are not as high as in serviced accommodation so the focus of support needs to be on cashflow rather than jobs. For example, bounce back loans, CBILS, extension of payment of loans and, if VAT registered, have a VAT deferral to help see operators through the winter months,” explained Gill.
The roundtable also discussed the work the panel is doing behind the scenes to support operators, including Cumbria Tourism producing trackers for lobbying Government and the ASSC securing £1 million for distribution amongst some of its members.
Fiona explained the work the ASSC has been delivering in Scotland: “With 34% of self-caterers in Scotland receiving no financial support whatsoever, we remained firm in our approach with the Scottish Government. As a result, we secured £1 million and have just finalised its distribution amongst some of our members.”
Gill added: “The critical point here is that we cannot afford to let businesses that were perfectly viable prior to the pandemic close their doors due to lack of financial support. These operators are a major contributor to our economy and our communities and it’s vital that we help get them through the next six months.”
Grant concluded the session: “Today’s discussion has shown just how passionate our industry experts are about the operators and markets they serve. Collectively, we are working incredibly hard for members and for the industry as a whole to ensure they have the support systems in place to help them face the ongoing challenge of COVID-19. As a united front, we are highlighting where we think support is needed and what this might look like, in order to face this issue with strength and emerge stronger than ever.
“We hope to have shown that, despite the challenging times we find ourselves in, providing we can navigate the very near future, the long-term future looks much brighter for the UK’s holiday let sector.”
Watch the final part of our panel discussion, for more on financial considerations.
Read part 1, which focused on the short-term challenges the sector faces and balancing that with the expected long-term boost the experts are predicting.
Or take a look at part 2, which covered the panel’s advice to holiday let operators when planning for and responding to evolving restrictions.