More than 160 CEOs from leading UK hospitality businesses have called for urgent support to help the sector survive, rebuild and drive economic recovery as we emerge from the pandemic.

The group, which employs hundreds of thousands of people and was co-ordinated by UKHospitality, has written to the Chancellor ahead of next month’s Budget calling for:

• An extension of the 5% rate of VAT for hospitality for another year (from April), expanded to the wider sector

• The continuation of the business rates holiday for hospitality for the whole of 2021/22 giving businesses valuable breathing room to rebuild and address rent debt

The letter also calls on the Government to provide a “decisive package” of support, including an extension of the furlough scheme, improved loan repayment terms to increase liquidity, deferral of Government-owed debt and a replacement of the Job Retention Bonus.

Nicholls, UKHospitality chief executive said: “Despite the carnage of the past twelve months, hospitality businesses are ready to pick up the pieces of a battered economy and help spearhead our economic revival. Although the end of the health crisis is not quite here, there are positive signs that we are making real progress in the battle against Covid. We are hopeful that, in the coming weeks and months, we can begin to welcome customers back and we know that people will be eager to socialise with their friends and families safely in our venues.

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“That means we need to start laying the groundwork now. We need to make sure that the hospitality sector is in the best possible position to help rebuild as we done in the past. After the 2008 financial crisis, one in six new jobs created in the UK were in hospitality. If the Government backs our sector and gives us the support we need and deserve, we can play a key role in helping it achieve its aims of levelling-up people and communities across the country.

“Extending and expanding the cut in VAT will play a crucial role in boosting demand and customer confidence. Our sector is labour-intensive so this will instantly result in more jobs. Removing business rates will allow businesses to repair shattered balance sheets, including tackling the rent mountain that has now hit £2 billion.

“Lots of businesses have taken a beating and many are still only just clinging on. The support that the Government has provided in the past year has been crucial in keeping businesses alive, giving them breathing room and allowing them to keep jobs safe. That support must continue if we want to see as many businesses and jobs secure as possible, and hospitality play the key role we know it can play in rebuilding. There is no point in the Government undoing all the good work it has done in 2020 by pulling the rug from under us as we get back on our feet.”