‘They need somewhere to stay’ - Hospitality managers on providing accommodation for frontline workers
- Credit: Archant
People pretending to be key workers, lack of interaction with guests, boredom - these are some of the challenges facing managers of the few hotels and guesthouses that have stayed open during the coronavirus lockdown in Great Yarmouth.
When the restrictions were imposed in late March, most hotels, guest houses and holiday parks across the borough shut down.
Some, however, have remained open, providing accommodation for key workers and frontline staff in a number of sectors - residential care, rail and energy for example - deemed essential.
Arthur and Debbie Callaghan started running the Cleasewood Guest House, on Wellesley Road, just over four years ago.
Mr Callaghan, 65, had worked at Canary Wharf while his wife was employed in education in Suffolk.
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Until earlier this week, they had been putting up two carers from a residential care agency who are looking after a terminally ill patient.
The two carers were working on a shift system, with one working during the day and the other at night.
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“They have their own rooms,” Mr Callaghan said, “so we don’t see them, the only time I see them is at breakfast.”
Mr Callaghan would cook the breakfast in the kitchen, put it in a hatch and the guest would come to fetch the meal.
The nine-room guesthouse would normally be full at this time of year.
Mr Callaghan said: “We agreed to stay open because frontline staff need somewhere to stay.
“We’ve had calls because we’re still open from other people who do different work, but we’re not open to take anyone.”
He had to decline a request from a building company, he said.
Mr Callaghan said one woman, a local, has been staying at the guesthouse since late January.
She had been teaching in China and had returned home for a holiday but when the virus broke out in Wuhan she decided to not return and has been at the Cleasewood ever since.
Mr Callaghan said she is their longest-running guest.
“The difficult thing will be when the government relaxes lockdown, resorts won’t be able pick up as easily,” Mr Callaghan said.
The Hotel Victoria, on Kings Road, has been quiet.
Muhammad Mubarik, the 33-year-old manager, said the hotel has opened nine rooms and key workers have stayed there, including Network Rail staff.
He is one of only two people working at the hotel at the moment.
“At this moment it’s boring,” Mr Mubarik said. “I try to sort out things, to make the hotel a little bit better.”
He has no interaction with the guests and while they are there does not enter the rooms.
Mr Mubarik, who has been working at the hotel for almost a year, said some people looking for accommodation have pretended they are key workers.
“One guy came in, he tried to take a room but had no proof. I said sorry.”
Mr Mubarik has to ask potential guests to show ID or an official letter in order to be able stay.
MORE: ‘Waiting for the effects of coronavirus to hit is like waiting for a tsunami,’ says hotel bossFor Lynette Langton, 37, proprietor of Sand Dune Cottages, a self-catering complex next to the golf course in Caister, the lockdown has been “horrible”.
Only one of the eight cottages is currently occupied - by the person who feeds the animals at the Sealife Centre in Yarmouth.
Usually the self-contained chalets would be fully booked at this time of year, mostly with regulars, some coming to stay for 30 years, Ms Langton said.
“They’d be happy because the weather is so nice,” she added.
Ms Langton has cancelled all of May’s bookings - but regular guests with bookings later in the summer are “generally holding on to see what happens”, she said.
“If any key workers need accommodation they’re more than welcome,” she said.
Great Yarmouth Borough Council is maintaining and promoting the list of those offering rooms to key workers, in order to assist both the accommodation providers and key workers.
For more information, visit: https://www.great-yarmouth.gov.uk/key-worker-accommodation