The free scheme is open to hotels, B&Bs, self-catering properties, campsites and other accommodation, as well as pubs, restaurants, cafes and visitor attractions. The aim is to indicate to customers that a premises has the necessary health and safety measures in place to reopen to the public. Businesses gain a logo and certificate, as well as being featured on the AA’s ratedtrips.com listings site, which launched in February.
However, consumers won’t see the logo appearing on websites or in windows just yet. Although businesses can apply from this week, final accreditation is on hold until the industry gets the go ahead from the government to reopen on 4 July. So far, the only draft guidelines available are those published by trade body UKHospitality (UKH), which outline procedures for each area of the sector.
UKH has written to the government this week to “reiterate the urgent need” to confirm a reopening date for tourism and hospitality, along with guidelines. The government is yet to comment further on the proposed date of 4 July for England in its recovery strategy. In May it announced: “The ambition at this step is to open at least some of the remaining businesses and premises that have been required to close, including… hospitality (such as food service providers, pubs and accommodation)”.
UKH chief executive, Kate Nicholls, said: “This is particularly important for hotels and tourism, where 60% of bookings are made more than two weeks in advance. If the sector is to reopen on 4 July, that only gives us two weeks from this weekend, so time is of the essence. Last Friday’s GDP figures – with hospitality and tourism representing a quarter of the total decline – illustrated the powerful economic might of the sectors, so the country can ill afford delaying their return to trading.
“A review of the two-metre social distancing rule is a positive show of intent for hospitality, but with less than three weeks to the proposed reopening date for our sector, a crucial element of certainty is conspicuously absent.”
However, applications for the new AA scheme are already open in preparation – with 750 in the first 24 hours – and the AA says these will be processed once official guidelines are released. To apply, tourism businesses must complete a risk assessment with evidence and sign a code of conduct committing to update procedures as the guidelines change. Applicants don’t need to hold an AA rosette or star, although for anywhere serving food a food hygiene rating of four or more is a prerequisite.
The new scheme is backed by 19 industry bodies, including the B&B Association, Tourism Alliance and self-catering association PASC UK. It’s free to apply, but businesses are urged to make donations to Hospitality Action, which supports employees in the sector facing ongoing financial and emotional uncertainty.
“Many members of the public will be looking to enjoy days out, short breaks, eating out and other experiences as lockdown eases, but confidence in the sector is vital,” said Simon Numphud, managing director at AA Media. “We hope that the Covid Confident scheme will be a valuable stepping stone for establishments to restore consumer confidence as lockdown eases.” .
VisitBritain is also working on an industry standard and supporting quality mark for tourism businesses, due to launch once the government publishes its official guidance. Similar to the AA scheme, plans include a free online assessment, resulting in a quality mark and certificate.