Warning on Harrogate's prospects after St George Hotel setback for town's hospitality sector

A respected figure in Harrogate's hospitality sector has reacted with sadness at the news about St George Hotel but issued a stark warning that it "won't be the last hospitality business to go under."

Sunday, 24th May 2020, 4:01 pm
Sadness over St George Hotel but a warning over Harrogate's prospects in hospitality and leisure.
Sadness over St George Hotel but a warning over Harrogate's prospects in hospitality and leisure.

After Friday's troubling announcement that that leading travel firm which operates one of Harrogate's most famous hotels has collapsed into administration, Simon Cotton said his immediate thoughts were with staff at risk of losing their jobs after the collapse into administration of Specialist Leisure Group.

But, the managing director at Harrogate's HRH Group, which runs The White Hart Hotel, The Yorkshire Hotel and The Fat Badger, warned the impact on the town'e economy should not be underestimated.

Talking to the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers, Mr Cotton said: "It’s very sad news learning of the collapse of Shearings, not least as I have friends who work at the St George in Harrogate.

"Of immediate concern is for those that are at risk of losing their jobs if the administrators can’t find a quick solution to sell the St George Hotel or find someone to operate it whilst in administration.

"It's not something not easy to do when times are good but, I imagine, almost impossible when trying to work out how reopening is going to look for our industry with social distancing rules applied.

"Ultimately, it is something we are probably going to have to get used to over the next year to 18 months, as they’ll not be the last hospitality business to go under."

The Specialist Leisure Group operated nine businessses selling holidays and other travel arrangements, including Country Living Hotels which St George Hotel on Ripon Road was part of.

Always noted for a positive view of Harrogate's strengths and a major supporter of making improvements to the town centre, Mr Cotton, said coming out of lockdown held its own risks for hospitality businesses not just nationwide but in Harrogate itself.

Not all would survive the difficult months ahead in 2020, he added.

Mr Cotton told the Harrogate Advertiser: "The vast majority of hospitality and tourism businesses are seasonal and for many, getting through the winter months is a tough slog at the best of times so to be put in lockdown and closure at exactly the time you’re expecting to be ramping up annual revenues, is what will have signalled the end for Shearings.

"The impact of this on Harrogate shouldn’t be underestimated due to the client profile of the St George customer as they are almost purely leisure-based.

"This means more of their rooms are sold for double occupancy, meaning more visitors to our town.

"These people come to holiday and, therefore, spend money in our restaurants, bars, shops and also visitor attractions around the district on days out.

"It's sad times for the hospitality industry but even sadder times for those connected to the St George Hotel in Harrogate."

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