We are a small business with two properties, a restaurant-with-rooms in Ruthin accommodating 16 people and a B&B in Llangollen accommodating 22 people, both called manorhaus. We’ve been in business 18 years and have the seen the inevitable ups and downs of running a business in the hospitality industry in beautiful North Wales!

What should be the start of what looked likely to be a busy year for both properties started rather sluggishly, but we were confident that the year ahead would be a successful, rewarding and profitable one.

The impact of the challenges surrounding the Covid-19 virus upon our business has been rapid, hard-hitting and turbulent; we made it through the so-called ‘great’ recession of 2008 (I’m not sure what was so great about it?) and a worldwide pandemic is not going to put us off the trials and tribulations of the hospitality industry.

Firstly, we have contacted our bank (Lloyds – part-owned by the government!) to discuss a payment holiday of 6 months; they told us they were prepared for this with a £2bn fund specifically for this purpose so we are sending some further admin (cash-flow forecasts, projections, etc.) to progress with this. Both properties are under a rateable value of £51,000 so we will benefit from the announcement this morning from Welsh Government that such properties will be exempt from Business Rates for the 20/21 financial year – a saving of £20k.

We have had cancellations to the tune of £20k already and these have had an immediate impact as events, such as the Urdd Eisteddfod in Denbigh (a £6k booking) and Plaid Cymru Conference in Llangollen (a £750 booking), have been announced. Further shocks like this are likely so we’ll be prepared.

We are reviewing all expenditure to make sure we can cope for at least a few months with a dramatic downturn in trade and we will look to the Welsh Government when they make announcements about the support they are to offer. We need their support soon, we need it to be accessible easily (not the usual red tape associated with grant applications through Visit Wales) and we need it to continue as long as this crisis is to continue.

We are a small business so don’t have an army of staff to pay so we will hopefully be able to retain any over this period as long as they are flexible in their roles and open to possible unpaid holidays or potentially paid holidays now rather than later in the year; we have a scheme in place to decorate, deep-clean and undertake some other jobs on the property that require attention.

We will be ready for business once this crisis has passed – hopefully relatively soon – because we are strong business and we are ready for the fight to keep going!

My top-tips are:

Communicate – speak now to your lenders, landlords, suppliers, employees, family; there may well be some tough decisions to be made and tough conversations to be had but don’t put off the inevitable.

Prioritise – Your local, small suppliers and your employees are your first priority; you will not be paying mortgages, utilities, VAT, NI, and other such things.

Cashflow – Be prepared for cashflow issues; cash is king – hopefully you will have a little set aside for emergencies.

Self – Look after yourself; this will be an anxious time and you will get through it – use your networks of friends, family, fellow-business owners, pets, loved-ones, mindfulness, meditation, wine – whatever works for you! Just be well and keep your people well.

This is going to be a difficult time for many in our industry and together we will come through this and celebrate what’s so great about our industry here in North Wales. Go North Wales!

Christopher Frost
partner – manorhaus Ruthin & Llangollen
Chair – NWT/Go North Wales

About Eirlys Jones

Eirlys is the Head of Operations at North Wales Tourism and can be contacted at eirlys.jones@nwt.co.uk or connect with her on LinkedIn you can also follow her on Twitter @EirlysJones5