Bristol firms have been coming to terms with a new and unprecedented way of doing business against a backdrop of a complete lockdown of the city and the cancellation of all events.
But as a city built on innovation, many are looking at new ways of doing business – from motivating a remote workforce to staging meetings, seminars and other gatherings online.
The city’s hotel industry – among the hardest hit sectors – has found new ways to stay connected and put their empty rooms to good use.
The Bristol Hoteliers Association (BHA), which represents 40 major hotels in the city with around 4,000 rooms, is hosting weekly conference calls among its general managers to share feedback, experiences and ideas.
Last week the BHA said occupancy levels among its members had already plummeted to just 30% in March – less than half the average usually achieved for the month.
Hotels are estimated to contribute around £200m to Bristol’s economy.
With conferences cancelled and many guests staying away two Bristol hotels have come up with a way to help fill some their empty rooms – and at the same time help people who find it very hard to work from home.
DoubleTree by Hilton Bristol City Centre and Hampton by Hilton Bristol City Centre are offering the use of rooms to people who find it impossible to work from home, giving them a degree of isolation but without the many distractions there might be at home.
Lynn Hood, chief operating officer of Focus Hotels, which manages the two hotels, said: “We are offering our empty rooms as home office space for people who find their own homes too distracting or who simply wish to work in isolation.
“We can offer people a private room with work desk during the working day.
“Guests can enjoy the comfort of their own en suite bathroom, the use of a large TV screen, using their own HDMI cable, free high-speed wi-fi, free tea and coffee, biscuits.”
While Bristol’s visitor attractions are temporarily closed, Visit Bristol, the city’s destination marketing organisation, is urging people to experience its rich history from the comfort of their sofa by taking part in virtual tours.
Its street art, galleries, historic museums, music and top attractions are all online and offering not just virtual tours but podcasts and playlists.
Meanwhile, in a reflection of the city’s green roots and tech prowess, Bristol-based gardening app Candide is offering its sophisticated technical resources to help independent nurseries, growers and gardens to promote their services, free of charge, to a wider audience.
Candide has an online community of more than 300,000 plant and garden lovers who are all eager to support the gardening industry through the current difficulties, following the cancellation of many horticultural events (RHS Shows, nursery events and Rare Plant Fairs).
These gardening events provide the lifeblood for many of the small independent nurseries to sell directly to gardening customers. Similarly, public gardens are facing a time of great uncertainty following this week’s government announcement, but Candide are working around the clock to help.
It is offering a free listing to every UK nursery on its app – connecting its 300,000 users directly with those nurseries that have websites. Candide has also opened a free marketplace enabling nurseries to sell directly to gardeners through the app, with all profits going directly to the nursery.
Many advisory firms have launched free services to help SMEs and scale-ups affected by the coronavirus crisis. Among them are Boardroom Advisors, which provides part-time executive directors for commercial, operations and CEO roles.
It is offering a free consultation with one of its experienced regional directors to help them consider ways to adapt to the changing circumstances and enhance their growth prospects over the longer-term.
The Growth Diagnostic service will be carried out by video link and firms will receive a detailed report and recommendations. It is free to all companies employing between 10 and 1,000 staff throughout the UK until the end of June.
All public events in the city were cancelled this week by Bristol City Council until the end of July at the earliest, including the Harbour Festival and St Paul’s Carnival – delivering a further blow to the city’s hospitality and leisure industries. The Great Bristol 10k and Great Bristol Family Run, which were scheduled to take place on Sunday May 3, have also been cancelled.
Destination Bristol CEO John Hirst said: “Tens of thousands of people attend the wide range of different events and festivals in the city each year, placing Bristol firmly on the map as a place to celebrate a diverse range of cultural interests.
“We know this news will be a huge blow to organisers, volunteers and the general public but it is a necessary decision given the current circumstances and we are very hopeful that Bristol’s much-cherished programme of events will bounce back even stronger in 2021.’’