Covid 19 – A Statement from the BAPA Directors
COVID 19 – A statement from the BAPA Board of Directors
COVID-19 has thrown our industry into a period of deep uncertainty. Advice evolves every day; impacts on our businesses and lives develop every day; the uncertainty grows about the medium- to long-term future every day, while the short term is undeniably worrying for many our staff and suppliers. These are situations out of our control and seemingly just out of our sphere of influence. Even as we try to save our summer seasons, protect our staff as far as is possible and ensure our survival into next year, there are many questions that we would like addressed. You will have noticed the conflicting opportunities that present themselves:
- our unprecedented number of beds available is a potentially useful resource for extra care facilities, for the NHS or other groups – but at time when “social distancing” is government policy and care will require specialised staff, would it be seen as helpful or irresponsible to try and sell them or even offer them those spaces?
- to protect ourselves we are pitched against our clients: do we refund and risk going out of business or hold funds and lose their loyalty? The lack of clarity around insurance has compounded this.
- do we hold staff in the hope of a June and July operation or do we bet on September as the likely return to normal? Neither is certain, but either way we cannot write off the entire year just yet, but the former requires us to carry cost with no cashflow and no guarantees while the latter means immediate or impending difficulties for our staff teams on the ground.
We have all been forced into making decisions with unsatisfactory guidance, insufficient knowledge and in the face of the highest degree of uncertainty the industry has ever suffered. Yet while hard answers are hard to discern, there are various discussions taking place that will affect us. In the absence of a crystal ball and useful, concrete advice, here are some tangibles that are emerging:
- The government’s support package for employees, announced on Friday night, is unprecedented and we encourage all members and operators to investigate fully how their staff teams can benefit from it. This can only be seen as a positive development as it goes some way to addressing the imminent loss of skills implied by mass lay-offs or terminations. Hopefully it improves the chances in ramping staffing back up appropriately when the time comes to do so.
- ABTA met with Government officials on Thursday 19th March to try and protect operators from having to refund; they are expected to make an announcement regarding advice on Monday 23rd March, even if there is not any official government endorsement yet.
- The Outdoor Education Advisor’s Panel (OEAP) today advised schools to approach their insurers before approaching operators – but highlighted that insurers would in all likelihood direct schools back to the operator. This is part of the process that schools must demonstrate in order to claim, so operators should politely resist for as long as is politely possible.
- Our Chair, Ben Wire, wrote to the NCS Trust on Thursday 19th March along with the Chair of AHOEC and the CEO of the IOL to ask them to confirm that they would enforce and underwrite Invasion’s contractual commitments to Phase 1 suppliers of accommodation and activities in the event of cancellations or date changes. This was to highlight the issue to all involved in the ongoing discussions between the NCS Trust and the DCMS. We have received a reply from the Chief Operating Officer at the Trust stating that they hope to release a statement next Thursday 26th of March
- The Outdoor Industries Association is leading on a press release endorsed by BAPA and other leading players and organisations in our sector. The aim, while not specifically promoting operators, is to procure public acknowledgment from the government about the benefits and resources available in the outdoors in terms of health, leisure and wellness during these weeks of isolation and social distancing. The outdoors will have an important role to play in people’s mental health and fitness during this time.
Please feel free to contact BAPA if you have any concerns or worries – we will do our best to listen and point you in the direction of the most appropriate advice we are aware of. We are currently meeting weekly in conference call and daily individually by phone.
We are pleased that the collaboration, openness, communication and mutual support developed over the past 6 months between AHOEC, the IOL and ourselves has remained in place and developed further as COVID-19 progresses.
We will keep you up to date with as many of these developments as possible over the coming weeks.
With best wishes to all,