Will this year’s office Christmas party go ahead? (Picture: Getty)
Work Christmas parties are being cancelled in their droves as companies respond to fears over the Omicron variant.
Hospitality bosses are warning of a fresh blow to the battered sector as pubs, restaurants and venues see parties scrapped and big events scaled back given.
Sacha Lord, the night-time economy adviser for Greater Manchester, said the advice from health chief Dr Jenny Harries urging people not to socialise unnecessarily has been ‘catastrophic for the industry’.
‘We’ve seen office parties cancelled, flights are cancelling, it’s been a huge domino effect,’ he told Sky News.
‘December is a time when people can have a good time – they can take up to 25% of annual turnover in December.
‘Sadly, at the eleventh hour, it’s been snatched away from them.’
He added that if the planned rise in VAT from 12.5% to the original 20% rate from April was postponed it would ‘save many jobs and many businesses’.
Google is said to be among those holding off from staff Christmas get-togethers while a number of Government departments are also following suit despite Boris Johnson insisting there was no need to cancel festive events.
Advertising supremo Sir Martin Sorrell said there had been a ‘sharp series of cancellations’ in Christmas parties since the emergence of the Omicron variant, but that there was not enough Government guidance.
He told the BBC: ‘The uncertainty is extreme and Government policy, understandably, I mean to be a little bit sympathetic to the Government, it is an extremely difficult situation.
‘But we have been through this before with Delta and the previous variants, so you would have thought the Government would be a little bit more prepared for what may or may not happen in terms of scenario planning.’
Business minister George Freeman told LBC he cancelled his Christmas party with staff this year, but added he did not want to be telling businesses what ‘they should or shouldn’t be doing’.
It sends out a confusing message as ministers scramble to offer reassurance following the warnings from health officials earlier this week.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the UK Hospitality, said the ‘chilling talk’ from Dr Harries could hammer the sector ahead of its busiest period.
While the boss of Marston’s pubs, Andrew Andrea, said they’ve already been seeing bookings on a smaller scale this Christmas before Omicron.
He said: ‘We have seen a lot more bookings for 15 to 30 people, instead of the 60-plus bookings we saw more of before Covid.’
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