UFFORD PARK WOODBRIDGE HOTEL GOLF AND SPA

COVID-19 Business Case Study 
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the hospitality and leisure industry with the sector being one of the last to reopen after the lockdown period.

Published in Suffolk Director Magazine, Summer/Autumn 2020

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Hospitality and Leisure 

Tarnia Robertson, MD at Ufford Park in Woodbridge explains how they were affected by the pandemic.

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“We had to close the whole operation – hotel, golf course and spa – on Monday 23rd March, and 95 percent of staff were put onto Furlough.  A very small skeleton team of 10 people were retained to keep things running so we were ready to reopen when told we could do so.  

Just like many businesses, until our golf course re-opened mid-May, followed by our driving range at the start of June, we saw our revenue collapse to zero. However, we still had March invoices and staff wages to pay. Being in the hospitality industry, we had already seen our volume start to drop back in January and February, when everyone started to be more aware of COVID-19 and so it has been a very tough time for the business, and we still have a long road ahead of us.

Doing things differently

Thankfully, our bank and the Government scheme have been very supportive to us financially. It means that we can start to move again and gives us a chance to do things differently now we have re-opened.

We have had to rethink our business model and adjust to the ‘new normal’. We are fully aware that for months and potentially the rest of 2020, our volume will be much lower due to adapting our operations, which will then of course have a negative impact on economies of scale and our profitability. Like many other businesses, we have also had to heavily invest money into more cleaning products, PPE and signage. We have even changed the way we take bookings and check-in guests. 

Lessons learnt

Lessons I have learnt from this is that you need to have an unshakeable belief that you will prevail, even if it means you have a different ‘post covid-19’ business. 

When we went into Lockdown, my first thought was to keep calm, and looking back I am lucky to have a very loyal and supportive team behind me. As a leader you cast a shadow – a mood shadow – so you need to make it a positive one. It would be very easy to panic in these situations, but I needed to stay strong, positive and be as transparent as possible.  

The one thing I look back on and think I would do differently is something that ironically has had a positive and negative result. 

If I could reset, I would not have made us so vulnerable from a cashflow point of view by refurbishing our last eight hotel bedrooms earlier this year. However, because of this and other large refurbishment plans we were wanting to do, we had already agreed a bank loan for capital expenditure for the rest of 2020. This new loan is basically what saved the business from going under and meant we were able to pay the wages and bills in March. It gave us time to renegotiate a new COVID-19 business loan and await the Government Furlough payments. 

Investing in coaching

Finally, our investment into leadership and management coaching has played a massive part in the team being prepared and has put us ALL in the best place to handle what is a very unprecedented crisis; we have the mental tools to cope!”

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Tarnia Robertson is Managing Director at Ufford Park Woodbridge Hotel Golf and Spa, an independently owned family business with a Quality in Tourism 3-star Silver accreditation. Uffordpark.co.uk

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