With the festive season now in full swing, Gef spoke to Rebecca George, Chief Executive of IOM Chamber of Commerce, about the current mood among local businesses, particularly following news of the new ‘variant of concern’, Omicron.
Rebecca said: ‘With regards to retail and hospitality on the island, the evidence we’ve received over the last week seems to paint an even bleaker picture than this time last year.’
‘The Omicron news creates a fast-moving environment, but in any case, with rising Covid numbers on the island, concern was happening naturally anyway. Timing-wise, it’s particularly difficult, as this should be the peak trading period ahead of Christmas.’
With office Christmas parties taking place over the next three weeks, local establishments are vulnerable to the impact of short-notice cancellations.
She continued: ‘Reports from the hospitality sector in particular are that many are experiencing cancellations and dropped bookings. Businesses in the local community are very aware of the impact they make by cancelling, but as some are governed by a headquarters in the UK or other overseas jurisdiction, they don’t always have the option to make locally-informed choices. Having said that, many businesses do have that autonomy, and do consider the impact of cancelling these events.’
‘The feeling is that opinions are split. Many companies are keen to carry on, learn to live with it – with mitigation measures – and their staff want and deserve a Christmas party. More risk-averse businesses are taking the difficult decision to cancel. It’s a difficult balance to strike, wanting to support your employees’ health and wellbeing and also the local economy.’
Ultimately, Rebecca is optimistic.
‘I remain hopeful. There’s every chance the variant news will become more positive in the coming days and weeks. It’s been a bumpy ride but we’re committed to getting businesses through to March 2022, and continuing our work with the Chief Minister and Treasury Minister to give our members the best possible support.’