SURREAL is the only word that can be used to describe the last 10 months.

As everyone has adapted to the new world of COVID-19 restrictions since March 2020, no one could have anticipated that we would still be in the position that we are currently in, almost one year later.

We are now adapting to a new way of life; we have stopped and started so many times throughout those months due to this ever-evolving devastating pandemic. But sudden and recurring closures and re-openings have brought many businesses to a complete halt; many into debt; and many questioning how much longer they can continue to survive in this climate – myself included.

Managing a business has its challenges in normal times but navigating it through a global pandemic & lockdowns has, without doubt, been very challenging. Although from my own point of view, it has equally enabled a time of huge personal development.

While many businesses have been able to adapt and innovate to generate alternative revenue streams at this time, many have had no other and, regrettably, some have been unable to do so. I admire and love to hear and read these stories – adaptability and resilience is what the world of hospitality is renowned for.

The hospitality sector is evident of innovations with many restaurants offering take away or ‘cook at home’ options which appears to have been a huge success for many. Like any successful idea, with more competition coming to the market, it dilutes the demand and means restaurants etc. are regularly changing their offerings to stimulate further demand.

It’s a tough market and, let’s not forget, many people in this current climate are unable to financially afford dining out or ordering in luxuries. Each opportunity presents its own challenge, and I wish the best of luck to all who continue adapt and evolve – if you can support these businesses, please do.

While Government support is available to businesses, the longer it continues I’m left asking if it is enough to enable businesses to survive in the long term? Furlough for example, which many believe is the lifeline to saving jobs and businesses, is not the reality for many. Furlough still presents an additional cost to the employer with paying pension, national insurance and holiday contributions.

While this may appear minimal, any cost when there is no revenue coming in is significant. The additional financial support that has been provided is not sufficient to cover many overheads that businesses have to occur on a monthly basis.

Based on this, and without additional support coming from the government, it would be naive not to expect further jobs losses in the coming months as businesses run low on funds to meet the costs still presented. Large or small, continued costs without sufficient support is unsustainable. Couple that with the uncertainty of reopening timescales, ever changing restrictions, and lack of clarity in strategy, it could get worse before it gets better.

With the news reported at the weekend that many sectors are now facing a potential reopening date of March/April, this will bring heightened uncertainty to many who had high hopes for 2021 beginning our recovery. In my own personal opinion, formed by talking to numerous businesses and strategists, it seems very clear that it will be the second half of the year before we will see any turnaround as more of the vaccine is rolled out.

In fact, the Danske Bank Quarterly Sectoral forecast published last week has predicted it will be a number of years before we witness a return to pre COVID-19 trade levels. What we are certain of is this knock-on impact which will be felt for a long time – we can only but hope for an expedient roll out of the vaccine so we can begin to rebuild and return to the world we once knew, and that itself will mean different things to us all!

As a community we all have a part to play in getting this virus under control. Adhering to the guidelines, and acting responsibly is little to ask of us, so we can avoid unnecessary pressure to an already overstretched NHS, devastating personal loss to families, and uncertain economic future. I, like all of us, am grateful for all of the work that the NHS and key workers have done over the past 10 months. Continuing to do our part now places less strain on the health service and enable them to focus on a quicker delivery of the vaccine.

With so much uncertainty, it is difficult not to feel overwhelmed. But as we all work towards brighter days ahead both personally and professionally, cooperation, adaptability and resilience is key.

Please stay safe, stay at home, and support local businesses as and where you can.