Whitbread, the British owner of no-frills hotel group Premier Inn, said Tuesday that it planned to axe up to 6,000 UK jobs, as the coronavirus pandemic slams travel.

Whitbread, which owns also restaurant brands including Beefeater and Brewers Fayre, said the cuts would number almost one fifth of its workforce.

“With demand for travel remaining subdued, we are now having to make some very difficult decisions… that could result in up to 6,000 redundancies in the UK,” chief executive Alison Brittain said in a statement.

The news came after British pub chain Wetherspoon separately announced plans to cut up to 450 jobs at venues across six UK airports.

Wetherspoon’s “decision is mainly a result of a downturn in trade in these pubs, linked with the large reduction in passenger numbers using the airports”, said chief executive John Hutson.

Wetherspoon founder and chairman Tim Martin has said that pubs and other hospitality businesses could be wiped out by further coronavirus restrictions.

Britain reopened its hospitality sector in July after more than three months of lockdown, but the industry faces new restrictions.

The British government is scheduled to announce new measures to stem a rising tide of coronavirus cases, reducing pubs’ trading hours in England and abandoning its call for people to return to offices.

Brittain said that Whitbread’s performance since the lifting of the lockdown “has been ahead of the market”.

To help the sector recover, the government  launched a temporary stimulus package, including a restaurant discount scheme and tax cuts.

The “Eat Out to Help Out” deal throughout August saw the government contribute 50 percent of the cost of a cafe, restaurant or pub meal, up to ¬£10 ($13, 11 euros) per person.

– Surge in infections –

Britons enjoyed more than 100 million meals under the discount scheme, according to data, while some analysts said it contributed to increasing cases of Covid-19.

On Monday, the government’s top medical advisers had warned that the country could see up to 50,000 coronavirus cases a day by mid-October, and a month later exceed 200 deaths every day if nothing was done.

Almost 42,000 people who have tested positive for Covid-19 have died in Britain, the worst death toll in Europe.

In order to keep the economy alive and keep people in jobs, the government has paid the bulk of wages for almost 10 million workers.

With the state’s furlough scheme set to end next month however, analysts forecast a surge in unemployment.

While retailers, hospitality and travel groups have been at the forefront of slashing tens of thousands of jobs during the pandemic, supermarkets have created huge amounts new roles to meet a surge in online food demand.


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