From the beginning of this pandemic crisis, I have been greatly concerned about its effects on the working people of the U.K., including those involved in the hospitality sector.
I know full well from the enforced closure of properties run by my Foundation, both in Aberdeenshire and East Ayrshire, let alone the complete disruption of all charitable enterprises at Highgrove, just how far reaching the effects of the lack of trading can be. At Dumfries House, for example, the closure has had a direct impact on those who show more than 32,000 visitors around the house itself, and also those who work in the bed and breakfast, café and events business – not to mention, of course, the catalogue of suppliers whose businesses depend on this activity taking place. At Highgrove there has equally been a severe impact on the staff who look after nearly 40,000 visitors, as well as on the loyal suppliers to our shops.
I have also been hearing from industry leaders such as Alison Brittain, Deputy Chair of my Prince’s Trust and C.E.O. of Whitbread, just how appallingly challenging the situation is for you all.
The past weeks and months, I am only too aware, have been exceptionally difficult for everybody working in the hospitality sector – from people in the restaurant and pub industries, which make Britain famous worldwide, to those providing accommodation for millions of domestic and international visitors each year.
Hospitality, as we know, plays a crucial part in our country’s economic health and is often described as the lifeblood of the economy. It employs millions of people and, indeed, offers many young people aged eighteen to twenty-four their first job opportunity – a vital and much-needed step into the world of work.
By its very definition, hospitality is open and welcoming, so it is particularly poignant that all hotels have been closed, save a few to support key workers. Gone have been the leisure guests – the families with their buckets and spades. Instead, a new kind of guest – those selfless and committed people keeping the nation running as it fights this virus. Although I fear this is hopelessly belated, I would just like to pay a very special tribute to the invaluable efforts of those who have offered this vital support to key workers and the N.H.S. and have also redirected food to the most vulnerable in society. It makes me incredibly proud to hear of such kindness and consideration.
I need hardly say that it is exceptionally welcome news that hotels, restaurants and pubs are to begin opening their doors. Hospitality connects people and enables them to create wonderful memories with families and friends, be it over a pint of beer, a special meal with family or an overnight stay to explore new places.
All these experiences have been dearly missed as normal life has been put on hold. I know that those at the forefront of hospitality have missed their guests too, so I can only express my warmest appreciation for the resilience and fortitude shown by those in hospitality and offer my deepest sympathy to those who are struggling to keep their businesses going or are having to cope with the appalling misery of seeing their businesses go into administration. I only pray we can begin to rebuild a vital and resilient industry and that the wonderful entrepreneurial spirit I come across so often can help secure brighter and much more sustainable times ahead.
Thank you so much for all you do for this country.