October/November/December 2020

Manchester hospitality looks to a positive future

The recovery of the hospitality sector is a collaborative effort

I don’t need to tell anyone about the difficulties facing the events and hospitality sector. Navigating the ever-changing array of rules and regulations, trying to operate a ‘viable’ business whilst interpreting seemingly endless, confusing and contradictory guidance. After the relative highs of August where we all ate out to help out and in doing so drove some of our favourite establishments to their busiest August on record, the sector could once again be on the verge of more restrictions which will further impede an incredibly fragile recovery.

I say recovery, sadly it’s not a recovery just yet. To add to the complexity, the widely used furlough scheme comes to an end in a few weeks throwing more fuel on the fire of uncertainty. I could write far more words than space permits on the rights, wrongs and injustices of the impact on our sector, but there’s not much I’d say that many people have not already thought, considered and written. Instead I’ll offer a forward-looking assessment for when and how things might start to get back to some semblance of what we used to call normal. In my business, hospitality is an essential element of our event proposition. Not just what we deliver inside the venue, but the local and neighbouring bars, hotels and restaurants.

We estimate that for every £1 spent in the venue another £5 is spent in the local area. People love coming to events in Manchester because of the vibrancy and quality of our hospitality scene. I would go as far as saying that our hospitality, music and sporting offer is our greatest tourist attraction. There’s incredible appetite and pent up demand for people to return to enjoying all the hospitality that Manchester has to offer. As soon as the conditions allow, we’ll see the streets teeming again with local and visiting customers. Events fuel much of that demand and incredible efforts are being made to win approval for a return to business, sporting and music events. We must remember though there’s a balance to be struck between delivering a safe and viable event with something that happens to be desirable and enjoyable.

There comes a point where the restrictions might outweigh reason for going out. Delivering a compromised or substandard event helps no one, and so various bodies in the industry are pushing to get meaningful events live and operating as soon as possible.

You may have seen the Albert Hall and the O2 in London making plans for larger scale activities later in the year. This will hopefully be the first of a number of larger scale activities returning, including that Manchester staple, bringing fans back into stadiums for the footy. When it starts, the flood gates will open just a bit wider and we’ll see that reflected in our hospitality businesses across the region. In the meantime, we must keep doing all we can to meet the guidance and rules whilst delivering a desirable experience. It’s been incredible to see how the sector has responded, implementing and enforcing a raft of new measures consistently and effectively.

There is no doubt that our operators can ensure a safe and secure environment with a much lower risk of infection than many of the unregulated establishments.

It’s imperative that we continue to press and demonstrate that point. I’m incredibly encouraged by recent events such as Caravan Salon in Dusseldorf with 107,000 visitors where zero infection cases have been reported some 3 weeks later. Evidence of our ability to ensure a safe environment. Right now, our sector is incorrectly seen as part of the health problem when in fact we’re part of the economic and societal recovery. I don’t, for one minute, underestimate the challenge faced by many, if not all businesses, as we head into winter, but if we keep enhancing our protocols, thinking creatively about our offer, and tackling each challenge with our inherent professionalism, the narrative will change and our industry will begin to emerge from this crisis.

And speaking on behalf of the 500,000 visitors Manchester Central brings to the city each year, I can’t wait.

Find out more about Manchester Central – visit: www.manchestercentral.co.uk