OPINION: Hard to keep upbeat on the hospitality rollercoaster - Simon Cotton, the HRH Group

Even for someone as optimistic and positive about the outlook as me, it’s hard right now to keep that upbeat feeling day after day when we keep being faced with so many challenges in hospitality and it really does feel like a rollercoaster ride of emotions and business demands in the current climate.

Everyone is well aware of the overhang of Covid and quite frankly I think people are generally fed up with still hearing about it. Then there is energy costs and rocketing inflation hitting the cost of food and pushing prices up for all of us. But despite this, and genuinely because I believe we are lucky to live in such a beautiful and amazing town as Harrogate, the tourists are still coming and we’re remaining busy; well, most of the time!

As if we hadn’t had enough thrown at us recently, then the Train Unions decide to go on a series of strikes which has without doubt had a knock on effect to visitor trade.

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We noticed an immediate impact of room booking demand with cancellations happening when the strikes were announced, but whilst we did ok replacing these bookings, albeit with last minute deals to drive demand, these visitors only make up some of those that haven’t travelled.

Another sign that has me just ever so slightly raising an eyebrow of concern is the time I’ve seen some bars locking their doors recently.

Last Friday night I walked into a large reputable bar at 10.45pm to be told they had stopped serving because it was too quiet. We then went to the venue opposite and found their doors had already been locked.

Now this, for a Friday night, has me genuinely concerned for hospitality businesses in our town.

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Now not everywhere was quiet and there’s that belief that if you do it well, then people will come, however this certainly showed there is a sign of people tightening their belts out there.

In more positive news, we’re lucky to be an events town and that has ensured that at least when there’s a large event on, the crowds are still coming in their thousands.

No event is bigger in the annual calendar than the Great Yorkshire Show of course and it has been great having the amazing weather this week to top off what is our jewel in the crown of annual events.

I am particularly pleased that organisers also opted to keep the extra (fourth) day again this year as this helps hotel occupancies and keeps the town busy on the Thursday before the weekend which historically has been a poor day/night for hospitality and retail, so long may this new extended GYS continue please!

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Last week, I was also lucky enough to attend the Spiegeltent put on by the amazing Harrogate International Festivals team and from all the feedback and social media I’ve seen, this was once again a huge success, so congratulations to them for bringing entertaining, varied and exciting acts and evenings to Harrogate.

And whilst on a moment of offering congratulations; I’d like to highlight a special young man in the world of Harrogate’s Hospitality scene.

Sam Ramsden of Rudding Park Hotel and Spa, who won the coveted ‘Receptionist of the Year’ at last months Hospitality & Tourism Awards, has just been offered a fantastic career move to The Dorchester Hotel in London. This highlights that hard work in our industry pays off by offering some fantastic career opportunities like this. We’re all so proud of Sam and this move just highlights what a worthy winner he is of this year’s HHTA title. However, Rudding Park’s... and Harrogate’s loss, will be London’s gain, and they are lucky to have such a fine young Yorkshireman greeting their guests from now on.

All the very best for the future Sam, from all your colleagues in Harrogate’s Hospitality scene.

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