(Covid-19 Outbreak Status – Updated 22nd March, 29th March, 5th April, 12th April, 19th April, 26th April)

The Covid-19 outbreak status: the disease has taken the World essentially by surprise. We applaud the UK Government response but note that changes to restrictions and advice are coming thick and fast. We shall try to update this post with the basic details as changes emerge.

Covid-19 Emergency Measures

As of 22nd March we have decided to close our guesthouse for all new bookings until the end of June and will be reviewing the situation as it develops. As you know, UK Government ordered accommodation businesses to close, except for special exemptions as of 23rd March.

Up till 21st March, hotels, guesthouses and bed and breakfast providers (etc) were not required to close. However, pubs, clubs, restaurants, Theatres, gymnasia and various similar establishments were ordered closed, subject to monthly review. This situation made it very unlikely that guests would make reservations for the foreseeable future.

Cleansing and hygiene

We are following all the Government and NHS advice as far as reasonable. We understand many properties are finding difficulty obtaining the necessary supplies. The low number of bookings where guests actually arrive was so low in our case, the room quarantine suggested period of 72 hours was exceeded. We clean and then spray + wipe all touchable surfaces anyway. We also spray and wash anything that comes into the house.

Social distancing

To aid social distancing, we already suspended breakfast service until the crisis is over. We were also finding difficulties in obtaining many of the supplies and did not wish to add to the risk of social contact merely by touring around shops failing to find produce on the shelves. We hear some prices have increased – especially hygiene products. When the emergency is over and we are allowed to reopen, we are not at all sure if we could afford to restart breakfast service again, at least for some time. Below is an image of what we are all missing –

Breakfast - not till next year for guests
Breakfast – not till next year for guests

Existing bookings

Our current Covid-19 outbreak status is: Where a deposit or prepayment has been taken, we are honouring those bookings but encouraging guests to rearrange arrival at later dates when, hopefully, the outbreak is over. So far, many of our guests have been OK with this arrangement. In cases of hardship, we can refund.

Refunds

Booking.com, in common with other online travel agents (OTA’s – eg Expedia, AirBnB, Google, etc) have generally invoked “Force Majeure” provisions in their terms and conditions (T+C’s). However, we note that with booking.com, their “Forced Circumstances” actions do not match their statements. We already have one voluntary free cancellation AND one forced cancellation, neither of which booking.com are honouring – still requiring payments despite their own terms and conditions and FM clauses

OTA’s bullying tactics

We feel very strongly that the OTA’s are simply seeking to ensure their own cash flow and future trading security at the expense of we smaller “business partners”. They are claiming to be “the good guys” but are doing it by throwing small hotels and b&B’s under the bus. They are claiming their T+C’s overrule ours and that situation is, according to them, fair and reasonable in general and especially during the current crisis. Our Covid-19 outbreak status is “critical” and we need understanding and assistance.

Shifting risk to small businesses

We cannot stress strongly enough, booking.com and others appear to be exploiting the Covid-19 outbreak as an excuse to shift all the risks and costs onto small businesses – including forced refunds, even when the guest does not want a refund. Shameful! CMA Gov UK isstill investigating unfair terms and conditions by Booking.com and may be adding extra facets to their investigation as observed during this crisis.

UPDATE: April 4th. Booking.com appear to be moderating and temporarily relaxing their “Force Majeure” policy. Corrections to apparent overcharges have been made.

Future bookings

Potential guests should wait till the crisis is over before making bookings in the present climate. We are deferring existing bookings up till end March 2021 (unless the situation changes again) and this may impact on future room availability. Room prices ane not changing yet although we will probably need to lower prices according to future circumstances. We have always strongly advised travellers to take out adequate and suitable travel insurance. This has never been more important than during the present emergency.We is no room availability until January 2021 although we can review that position, if the emergency is over.

Hopefully next year in Weymouth?
Hopefully next year in Weymouth?

Covid-19 Government measures

The UK Government has taken extraordinary steps to try to protect employees, businesses and others during the emergency. Accommodation providers are waiting for specific aid and advice in our case, especially relevant to self-employed owners of these businesses. We are very grateful for the aid reports but have not actually received any yet. As of 29th March, we still await any financial assistance but know some elements may be later in June.

Local business outlook

Locally, it is possible up to half our guesthouses along The Esplanade may have to close permanently before the aid may be distributed. Insurance assistance also is dependent on forced closure – meanwhile such forced closures may allow booking.com and others to demand immediate refunds on all bookings, from monies that have not existed for many weeks, already. Other hospitality businesses and suppliers are all suffering equally severely and one has to question whether the holiday landscape may ever fully recover.

The Weymouth fishing fleet continues to operate, bringing fresh food into the town. We undersand the Weyfish market will stay open, via delivery options.

We understand booking holding shares recovered about 12% on stockmarkets, during the first week of UK emergency lock down. Why?

Further information

Anyone may contact us via phone or email or even facebook message, with questions on anything to do with Covid-19 and bookings. To repeat, we will honour all existing bookings and rearranged deferred bookings as far as we ae allowed to under Government restrictions or other external applied conditions. We hope everyone stays healthy and the crisis ends soon

01305 766669 denise.groves@aaranhouse.co.uk /AaranHouse

Links to useful advice and information: From B and B Association website —

NHS Links

The official NHS Coronavirus advice page
The National Health Service’s latest advice on Coronavirus.

The NHS Scotland Coronavirus advice page
The Scottish NHS’s latest advice on Coronavirus.

The NHS Wales Coronavirus advice page
The Welsh NHS’s latest advice on Coronavirus.

Hygiene advice

How to wash your hands properly – NHS advice and video
The National Health Service’s guidance on thorough hand washing (including video).

VisitBritain’s Coronavirus advice page
The official tourist authority VisitBritain has this page of information for hospitality businesses about the Coronavirus, with advice and latest information.

VisitScotland’s Coronavirus advice page
The official tourist authority for Scotland has this page of information for hospitality businesses in Scotland.

UK Hospitality’s Coronavirus advice page
UK Hospitality, the trade association for the hotel, restaurant and bar sectors, has a useful and informative page of information for hospitality businesses on Coronavirus matters.

If you might have the disease

Official Gov.UK COVID-19 Advice
This page has official Government advice on what do do if you have symptoms, the risk level, diagnosis and analysis, and further links.

Official Gov.UK COVID-19 Case Tracker
Public Health England has launched this COVID-19 data dashboard to track cases. The dashboard shows reported cases of coronavirus in the UK, including new cases confirmed each day, cases by upper tier local authority in England and number of deaths.

Official Gov.UK advice for those with confirmed or possible COVID-19 infection
From Friday 13 March 2020, if you have symptoms that are indicative of having coronavirus you should stay at home and self-isolate for a period of seven days. Public Health England have published guidance – click the above link.