How is The Hospitality Sector in London Performing?By Angelica Malin
There is no doubt that hospitality was one of the worst affected industries by the pandemic. Multiple lockdowns resulted in months without income, on top of wasted food and drink, insurance and premises costs. Thousands of people lost their businesses but for those who survived the shutdown, things are starting to look up.
The Lockdown Affect
London was hugely affected by the pandemic from the outset, with huge numbers of people getting sick every day well before the rest of the country felt the brunt. The good news is that things in the capital are drastically improving. We’re now at two years since the first lockdown and most of us can still remember the photos of tourist hotspots like Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square completely empty; a scene that has never really been seen before. Even when things started to be allowed to open up again, limited international travel and people still being cautious of even taking a staycation within the UK meant that things did not pick up quickly.
With land-based facilities closed during lockdown, online activity soared as established and new casino sites saw record levels of interest and this is something that although good for the online industry may not be good long term for land-based options. Grocery shopping, watching films and even chatting to friends all shifted online too, which could have affected across several industries long term, even though things have now returned to normal.
People Travelling Around London
The London Mobility Report shows how many people travelled during a certain period. It combined TFL journey “touch in” data, Google location data and CityMapper planned trips to assess how people have travelled in recent months and years.
To start with, public transport usage is up by 50% compared to the usage during the third lockdown and has also increased 40% since Christmas, showing that more people than ever are starting to feel more comfortable about going out.
This surge in public transport usage has also translated to retail and leisure. Retail and leisure are up 40% compared to January 2022. This is excellent news for businesses that rely on in-person visits, like hotels and casinos – hotels aren’t able to offer anything online or takeaway and most large casinos don’t have an online business alongside because a huge part of the casino business is entertaining away from the tables as well as at them.
Land-Based Entertainment Opening Back Up
Palm Beach Casino is one of the most exclusive and iconic casinos in central London – set in the heart of wealthy Mayfair. Palm Beach Casino relies on tourism almost as much as it relies on locals and it doesn’t have any services online, which means they saw absolutely no revenue during lockdown.
One of the biggest attractions of spending time in a casino is the all-around atmosphere. Punters love to go for a drink, get some food and experience the excitement of watching a live roulette wheel in front of them or sitting at the table surrounded by friends. In the last two years, there has been a big lack in socialising, due to needing to distance. Because of this, more people than ever are feeling ready to head back out into the world. Casinos are seeing a huge increase in footfall and turnover after people have spent two years saving their money by not being able to do anything.
Life Returning to Normal
One of the biggest indicators of how ready people feel to get back out into society are the footfall statistics for restaurants. While there wasn’t a lockdown in December 2021 a lot of people took it upon themselves to stay home in order to protect themselves ahead of seeing family and friends for Christmas. After the first lockdown, it took restaurants 3 months for footfall to recover, and it was still almost 20% down from pre-Covid. After the third lockdown, it took only two months for restaurant footfall to recover, this time to 10% down from pre-Covid levels.
In December 2021, restaurant footfall fluctuated a lot thanks to the combination of people being careful ahead of Christmas, while others caught up with friends and family in restaurants. At the lowest point over Winter 2021 restaurant footfall was down 40% on the highest level seen during the pandemic. After a big fall over Winter 2021 numbers have recovered quickly, and are now back up to over 90% of pre-Covid levels. This time, the increase in people visiting restaurants grew very rapidly.
All of these footfall statistics are excellent news for the hospitality industry after such a tough few years. Hospitality still isn’t back to pre-Covid levels and it won’t be for some time as anyone that’s vulnerable is bound to be more cautious, but footfall is continuing to grow all the time which points to a sustained recovery for the hospitality sector. This will be of particular relief to anyone that wasn’t able to transition their business into offering an online or takeaway product, like land-based casinos or hotels. As the public increases in confidence about going out and enjoying themselves, these businesses that have suffered particularly badly over the past two years will be rewarded for their patience.
The Future of the Hospitality Industry in London
We have yet to see a summer with international travel back open to see what the season will bring in terms of the tourist trade and whether this will reach pre-pandemic levels. There are still people worried about Coronavirus and a small section of society still choosing to isolate. However, what we can be sure of is that all industries are working on adapting their offerings to make sure that they can keep up with ever-changing demand, and this includes the hospitality industry within London. So, let’s hope that 2022 continues to see a rise in footfall and that international visitors start to visit London like they once did – after all, we’re probably all ready for a return to normality as soon as possible.