Some of the statements in Thursday’s Government Briefing suggested that the process of untangling lock down may be starting soon. Next week, the Cabinet advised by SAGE (Science Advisory Group) and NHS, will be looking at the potential for easing restrictions in some situations. Of course, actual easing is still weeks or months away, but a plan is being considered.
In our specific case, we would need several weeks notice. We would need to finish maintenance and repairs, re-hire cleaner(s), deep clean and re-stock. Most of our existing stock has gone out-of-date and would need disposing. All the bedding in all rooms would need stripping, laundry and replacing. Most difficult, we would need to re-establish our presence online, publish availability and try to get customers again. Our review scores and listing rank have been dropping steadily throughout the crisis.
Rainy day Tuesday
We have seen much drama during the covid-19 lock down but the effect of a little rain on Tuesday was spectacular. Suddenly, there were no cyclists, no joggers, no kids on the beach and only the regular dog walkers. Meanwhile, the Pavilion carpark contained vans instead of the usual cars. It was like flicking a switch from “normal Weymouth” to “Gobi Desert” – only with rain. We imagined hundreds of dogs in lock down, crossing their legs and whimpering to go out. We hope the general public has not been confusing the “sunshine” vitamin D with immunity.
JUST SEEN: Wednesday Morning: Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds have had a baby boy this morning. It is great to have some good news among all the gloom.
Sunniest April since the 1800’s
For a decade or so, locally we have needed a prolonged spell of sunshine in Spring to kick start the season. We finally get the good weather and look what we got with it! Alanis Morissette and “Ironic”.
We are still self-isolating at home. The Missus makes the occasional shopping trip, including a couple of neighbours’ requirements. Meanwhile, about once a week, I make the short trip to the bottlebank 300 yards away to get rid of cans and bottles. The rest of the rubbish cannot be dealt with currently, since we have no collection and the Tip is closed. The Missus is baking fruit pies and the neighbours are baking cakes. Nobody is starving!
Social Distancing – some observations
We are not ONS or National Census but we have noticed a few changes resulting from social distancing and lock down. We overlook both the Beach and the Harbour so see everyone out and about during the day. It is nice to see folk enjoying the marvellous sunny weather, exercising and keeping well apart from each other. However, there may be increased accidents as cyclists fail to negotiate the old railway tracks along the Harbourside.
Roughly 5 times as many cyclists
About 3 times as many joggers
A few more gull and crow feeders on the beach
Similar numbers of rough sleepers and “drinkers”
Initially, twice as many pensioners, now normal numbers
We repeat, we are not experts but are just listing a few interesting references from people who are. We hope we can distract folk away from all the fake news out there (e.g. 5G masts!) Note that the bottom item (China Global Television News website) often refreshes URL links so that item may disappear soon. Later in the week, the weather broke, leading to showers and cloudy spells. However, Weymouth Esplanade, Beach and Harbour remained quiet, with just the occasional person exercising or walking their dogs.
There is some evidence that increased testing coupled with contact tracking can improve the effectiveness of lock down measures (see data for South Korea, China and Germany in latest UK GOV briefings)
Some less good news
At the end of week 3 of the Covid-19 lock down, we are still worried in some areas. Scientific reports give some cause for concern while trolls and conspiracy theorists are having a field day. We are trying to weed out the real news from the fake.
A weekly blog which we hope might include some useful information
Covid-19 Lock down – week one
It goes against human nature to avoid people, meet their pets and perhaps feed the birds. Maybe go for walks and enjoy the great outdoors. As a result, this first week has gone down very hard for all of us. We try to imagine the Covid-19 emergency lock down as something like a nuclear holocaust film and behave accordingly, for everybody’s safety.
Every second spent outside is a risk
Any thing you touch might be contaminated
Wild creatures you approach might be contaminated
You must wash down and wipe everything that comes into your house, including your hands!
Shopping and social distancing
Thanks to having some really lovely neighbours, we have been able to minimise shopping trips during the Covid-19 lock down. Clubbing together for MINIMUM shopping orders helps, delivered by SAFE delivery options. There has been some unfamiliar stuff, as well as stock meant for guests, to avoid wasting it if it goes out of date. (eg. milk, eggs, bacon, sausage, cereals, cheese etc). People on diets may find they have to compromise in these circumstances. Not everything is available and collective group shopping means you may have to sacrifice some items so others can have a turn, especially vulnerable groups.
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.
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 –
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.
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.
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.
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?
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
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.
In this era of Covid-19 and restrictions around travel and social contact, we hope we can welcome guests and provide a safe environment under Government guidelines and complying with some in-house safety measures.
Regrettably, we cannot serve breakfasts. This is to ensure proper social distancing
We cannot clean rooms during your stay. We can provide clean towels and toiletries outside your door
There is sanitizer hand gel provided in your room and public areas, along with some PPE (gloves, masks, etc)
We ask that guests do not meet together in close proximity and observe cough and hand-cleaning hygiene
Please do not pass by each other on stairs. We clean all communal contact surfaces multiple times daily.
Please provide a reasonably accurate time of arrival so we can stagger arrivals and maintain social distancing
Between 9.00 am and 8.00 pm we are available by phone to answer your requests
We have our Covid-19 Risk Assessment, PPE and Coronavirus prevention certificates plus instructions for safe use of PPE available in our public areas. There is 70% alcohol hand gel, gloves, masks, bootees and individual hand gel sachets in the entrance and rooms.