The UK Short Term Accommodation Association (STAA) has launched a five-point plan outlining how the government can help the sector recover from the Covid-19 crisis.
According to STAA, the short-term accommodation sector urgently needs targeted interventions in order to remain viable, ensure jobs are saved and make sure affected business do not become insolvent.
It says initiatives such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme and Bounce Back Loan Scheme have helped the travel and hospitality industries, but that more incentives are needed.
The short-term letting sector, which prior to March continued to grow rapidly, has been devastated by the travel restrictions imposed due to the spread of coronavirus.
A few weeks ago, reports suggested that 70% of short-term rental bookings were cancelled following the outbreak of coronavirus, rising to as high as 90% for some companies.
The five-point plan is as follows:
1. Recognising short-term accommodation providers as a stand-alone category to be included in current and future support schemes for the hospitality industry such as business rates holidays and grants, to avoid complications in claiming for relief
2. Amending domestic legislation to allow the provision of refunds and price reductions as vouchers and credit notes instead of cash.
3. Enabling more companies to participate in the Future Fund by lowering the investment threshold for eligibility.
4. Ensuring that the matching structure of the Future Fund caters to EIS/SEIS-compliant private investment, as many companies in the short-term rental sector have private investors rather than venture capital investment.
5. Minimising limits placed on international visitors by ensuring that travellers who have to self-isolate, during this period, have the option to book a home and that any limits are in place for as short a period as possible.
"It’s imperative that more is done if we are not to see a complete collapse of many companies in a sector that provides so many jobs, has valuable supply chains and provides vital options for consumers in the UK’s tourist accommodation sector," says Merilee Karr, chair of the STAA and chief executive of UnderTheDoormat.
"For those short-letting their home, and the companies that operate in the sector, the loss of both present and future income can be devastating and countless small entrepreneurs face going out of business, removing money from local economies."
She predicts that the sector will be operating at around 25% of usual demand over the summer in the UK with international visitors expected to be significantly down.
Kerr adds that while it is encouraging to know that the demand for accommodation will continue to rise as restrictions are lifted, the fledgling sector needs government support now to be in good shape to make a full recovery and service tourists later in the year.
Despite recent challenges, the STAA announced that it had taken on 14 new members in April, while also launching the NHS Homes scheme, offering key workers free accommodation near the hospitals they work at.