Two key staff from two of the area’s leading hotels have spoken of the unprecedented challenges the hospitality industry faces, how they have overcome them and how they intend to steer their businesses through choppy waters.
Gordon Cartwright is general manager at Lumley Castle and Charlie Eedle is marketing and revenue manager at Ramside Estates – but even those two famous and successful hotels, which service tens of thousands of customers between them every year have not been immune to the economic ravages of the Covid-19 Lockdown.
And having already pulled off one massive achievement in pulling through the Lockdown, they now have their eyes on a similarly enormous task in staging successful re-openings.
Having kept the Castle successfully maintained during Lockdown and worked seven days a week to do so – with Gordon sometimes being the sole occupant of the Castle, as was his operations manager for long stretches – he knows the level of focus that is needed in crisis times.
“I personally think that the future of hospitality belongs to the brave, the courageous and the imaginative,” said the Lumley Castle general manager, talking to Wear Business co-editor Graeme Anderson during our weekly Wear Business Leaders webchat this week.
“If you don’t have those qualities and if you can’t reshape your operation, then I think you are going to have real difficulties.
“And I think that the real winners in this won’t be known next week or next month, or even next year but I think there is a real opportunity for imaginative hoteliers to surge forward right now and make a solid comeback..
“It will take us a long time to get over the financial hit we’ve taken and I’m sure the same is true of the Ramside but we’re still here, still welcoming our guests and hopefully we’re on the up.”
Charlie acknowledged that the support the hotel industry has had from the Government during lockdown has been vital in ensuring the survival of the hotels as going concerns and securing the jobs of those who went on furlough.
But he accepts that just as big a challenge lies ahead.
We said: “We have to see it as light at the end of the tunnel.
“We were fortunate we had the golf course opened before July 4th so that we could get ready for how we would operate in terms of risk assessments.
“It was hard at first, getting all these new procedures in place, but we’ve successfully done so and although things are different, it has run very smoothly and we’re hoping that over the course of time things will really pick up.”
Charlie said that the media reports had not been helpful in terms of covering instances of pubs, for example, that have had to close through Covid_19 since July 4th.
Naturally, the media have to cover such cases but Charlie said it was absolutely crucial that the public realised such instances were very rare.
He said: “I read an article about three pubs that had had to be closed because of the virus but I think what can get lost in that story is that you are talking about probably three out of 10,000 pubs, so we have to keep it all in perspective.
“It’s very important that guests in our hotels are reassured and realise that every precaution has been taken for their safety, as indeed it has.
“Customer confidence is going to be key for the success of the hospitality industry in terms of it getting back to normal.
“And all we can do is keep on driving home that fact that we have taken every possible precaution in terms of keeping our guests safe.”
• Lumley Castle general manager Gordon Cartwright and Ramside Estates marketing and revenue manager Charlie Eedle spoke candidly and in detail about what is being done to help the two Wearside hotels continue to flourish, including plans for weddings, events, conferences and their Christmas programme.