with Simon Soar
Welcome to Boostly Podcast Season 8 Episode 21. This is a recap of my interview with Simon Soar about we can give hope in a post-COVID-19 world.
Here’s the audio for this episode:
Here’s the video for this episode:
02:40 About Simon Soar
03:30 Biggest change from the Jersey government
05:00 The situation of hospitals in Jersey island
06:00 The situation of hospitals in Jersey island
07:20 UK may have had the virus at the end of 2019
09:00 Success stories on Jersey Island
10:00 How Jersey government dealt with COVID-19
12:00 About Jersey petitions
13:20 Simon’s message to hospitality community
15:40 Simon’s current daily life
17:00 Simon’s confidence for the Jersey tourism
18:10 Quickfire questions
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Transcript from the Episode
Simon Soar is the Chief Executive for the Jersey Hospitality Association. He represents in excess of 200 local businesses in excess of 250 venues within those businesses somewhere around about Five to 6000 members of staff. He has been working very closely with the business liaison group which feeds directly into the emergencies panel over there. They are providing a live data up to date data straight in so any policy has been cited can be done with our industry which seems to be the most severely impacted. Being very carefully considered with everything being put through.
Biggest change from the Jersey government
Jersey is slightly behind the curve compared to UK. They have taken a little bit longer to move along in the timescale. They started their lockdown a bit late than UK did. It was a gradual lockdown over a period of about a week or two, you know, starting to close off various businesses, what can operate What can’t. They are now in a lockdown position where it’s what’s deemed as essential only within our industry, it’s accommodation providers, key workers, those who require the ability to self isolate, and counter home.
And then takeaways, which are still deemed essential because people still need to get food out their businesses or to their homes. They have 217 positive cases today, three deaths in the hospital so far. They are keeping low on the curve, as everyone keeps talking about the curve. Trying to keep it very uncontrolled at the moment seems to be a case of progressing.
They’ve got various government support coming through. Simon would be working very closely with the ministers who are working on that. They managed to get some least some support, which is going to keep a significant number of businesses going after this. And it’s also trying to get those who weren’t originally included brought into the scope as well.
The situation of hospitals in Jersey island
Jersey Island got one main hospital, they are currently building an emergency hospital. So just in case they have an outbreak, it’s a level where they need additional support from the outside. They are making sure they have the preparations in place for that. That should be ready within a couple of weeks.
Jersey is a small island. They got a hospital which is big enough to look after an island of this size. During normal times. For this level. They do have to look at additional support. To provide enough to cover everyone off,
Communication between Jersey and British government
Jersey Island has their own government, but they are a crown dependency. They talk to UK and to a lot of other jurisdictions about how they’re managing what steps they’re taking, and what is appropriate at what stage. Jersey’s decisions are based on where they’re at, what is happening currently, and how they expect to control it in certain situations.
The UK government are still looking at the herd immunization approach, which is the idea that you want to try and get about 80% of the people to have had it at some stage. Simon thinks it’s going to be quite interesting when they finally do the antibody test. Simon is expecting that at some stage and that will be to see who has had it. His suspicion is this has been around a lot longer than most of us realized, especially in the UK, and he thinks they’re going to see a lot more people coming back had it.
UK may have had the virus at the end of 2019
Simon doesn’t dismiss the idea of it. He thinks it’s a case of looking at it and saying, is it possible this was the case, and in my mind, you speak to a lot of people who said they suffered from very less chesty, flu-like symptoms back then. He knows a significant number of people who said they come down with those symptoms way before they even thought this was hitting the shores.
If it is the case of it was around at that point and it hadn’t been diagnosed at that stage, then they get back in a very good position because they could find a lot more people have got the antibodies have already passed through it. And in a safer position now, meaning that the recovery stage will happen. quicker if they do get to that point.
There are a couple of flights coming in today, the boats, stocked passengers, they still bring goods in floater coming over for essential workers, people repatriating whatever it happens to be there. But there’s no one coming over for leisure purposes at the stage. That’s all been down. hotels are shut. With the exception of looking after essential workers or those needing to self isolate some work. They can also remain open for people who might have been using them for temporary resident status. If they had to move out of their home for a period and must continue living elsewhere.
Restaurants are shut except for takeaway cafe or anything that you can do takeaways. That is it. There’s no ability to sit in anywhere at the stage. There’s obviously a lot of concerns surrounding businesses that focus primarily on people visiting the island to get the revenue coming in.
Success stories on Jersey Island
They have quite a few members who’ve adapted their business plan to shift over to a takeaway-only basis to this period, it doesn’t make up for the loss of revenue that they previously had, what it does provide enough income that they can bridge between now you know, with the weight guards we have coming in over here, and reopening, it allows them to get enough in to support weeks in Jersey, they go and cover 80% of the wage but you still have to pay the additional 20% make it up. They’re the only ones who are taking people in at the moment are going some of the hotels etc. Who have gotten facilities and those.
They also have some self-catering who offer the ability for especially key workers who want their own cooking facilities to be able to operate with that. But as generally most people are sort of shutting down. Those in particular who is the holiday home side, they have a very heavy business visitors to the island a lot of business tourists over the island. So there’s a lot of apartments which are focused towards providing them with an opportunity to have a service department without staying hotel.
How Jersey government dealt with COVID-19
Simon is dealing with them on a fairly regular basis database at the moment. He told them he thinks the communication both internally and externally hasn’t been up to the standard they needed. However, they’ve got one minister, in particular, who has been working very, very hard to provide as much as he can for them. They have in place now, although a little bit later than when they actually needed it, a facility to get weighed grounds which can help support people to retain their staff during this period.
But they have to understand they aren’t part of the British government. They don’t have the Bank of England funding their payroll. They have to use up their rainy day fund. They do have a significant rainy day fund that is finite, and you know, as a small, small community, they have to look at what they can do to bring that back up after it is understanding that they had been through a crisis centre five years ago finished that had a massive impact on the island.
They saw a new face of the island come through after that. But they also saw an element of a community come out of those folks going back to it, the government are doing a lot at the moment. Simon thinks there’s a lot of good measures coming through. But there’s also a lot of issues that have arisen because of this. And Simon thinks they will be addressed off this Now’s not the time to start nitpicking.
Now more than ever, we need an element of unity. We need to stand up we need to get ourselves through this.
About Jersey petitions
Simon thinks petitions are being bandied around a little bit too much at the moment, and he doesn’t think they’re getting the impact that they used to when they were focused a bit more carefully.
About speaking to employees, they have their local versions, which are the state’s members, voted in every four years. People are writing to them. They’re calling them the main guy. They have dealt with the situation over there, who’s the Assistant Chief Minister, which is the second top politician they have in the island who has been doing an incredible job.
He’s picking up his phone to how many different people who calls him. They’re concerned about things and he is there to listen, he’s going out of his way to make sure he can respond to them. He can listen to them, and he’s taking everything on board and it’s actually quite refreshing to see that level of engagement. You are never going to get this perfect first time with something that is this quick and reacting happening this fast in an unprecedented time. We’ve not dealt with anything like this one day, they do not know how to react with it.The jobs, they’re doing are incredibly high pressure and to at least come up with something which for the majority is providing a good result, is really good at this stuff.
Simon’s message to hospitality community
Simon sees a lot of people who are just struggling with dealing with what’s going on. He’s not just talking about accepting it, it’s a massive impact. They’ve worked in some cases dealing with very small operations, where it’s only them and maybe one or two other members of staff. They’re putting every penny they have all their time and all that passion, and they’re at the point where they might lose everything they put in and the level of emotion running through them can be very high. A lot of times it starts with you know, let’s rationalize.
Simon views situations on a case by case basis. Everything from an insurance policy they’re dealing with, how their staff are, what their business operation, everything is different because every business is built differently.
Jersey Island is not an island filled with chains. They are a lot of independent businesses, meaning that each of them will have their own USP and they’re taking that unique selling point and creating something that hasn’t really been replicated that much in the island. If they want to be able to deal with their individual problems. You have to analyze it on a case by case basis. Simon has been quite creative and sat down had over the phone had some very long conversations with people and it’s about being as creative as possible to try and get their business over the line.
So the small business owners it tends to be a cash flow situation, these guys they’re not earning massive bank balances built up. So it’s a case of can they afford to get through to the point where they reopened with enough money to reopen their business to buy that initial stock to cover off anything they might have had outstanding at this stage some of the bigger businesses They’re looking at the staffing levels can you know? Yes, they can hibernate their business. But what do they do with their staff, other staff going to accept? Are they looking at redundancies? Are they looking at just bedding down doing fewer hours? are they changing their contracts? Are they going to just pay out the 20% and get the other 80% of what is going to be the case with that also understanding that in Jersey, you actually have to pay the wage out first to get the 80% back? So that tends to be a cashflow, concern that has to be addressed there.
There’s a lot of issues that get looked at but Simon thinks it’s because the whole bit of what he’s dealing with now is everything is different. Every business is different. You try and find a generic answer to realize that there aren’t generic answers because businesses aren’t all generic
Simon’s current daily life
Two weeks after my first chat with Simon were some of the hardest he has ever dealt with in his career. Not necessarily the longest hours he has ever done, but he works from six in the morning till 10. At night he was speaking to members, you know, these are people who it was when it was first happening when, in fact, this was being seen when bookings were being cancelled drying up completely.
And people were going, what do I do? I’ve got nothing. So that was when the real concerns happening. That was pretty full-on. Now. We’ve got into a sort of bedding situation, and it’s addressing the individual concerns. No bookings coming in? No money coming in? What information is being fed into government, our government responding as we need them to? Are they aware of the problems we’re having with which to base their relief packages on? Do they know what the situations are?
So it was making sure that they had all that information to put forward. They’ve done surveys out to members, they’ve provided some real key data which was fed directly into the ministers to allow them to work out what support levels were required.
Simon’s confidence for the Jersey tourism
Simon is very confident of Jersey tourism. He knows they are not going to be the same coming out of this. There’s no question about that. How does the community change? How does it change? How do people travelling change? How does the way people view holidays change? That that in itself is big talk. Simon hopes that they are going to get as many of his members over that finish line as possible.
His biggest concern is the second wave of this. And if they haven’t got enough people who’ve had the virus in place, what the impact of that second wave could be?
If you could be isolated or locked down quarantine with one celebrity, who would it be?
It depends on what mood he’s in. It’s either going to be someone like Jim Jefferies, who is slightly outrageous, but he would help get you through some dark times. Or Billy Connolly. The man isn’t just funny. He’s got a wealth of experience and he can hold a decent conversation.
Movie or TV series that has been on your watch list
What is the one thing that you’ve just missed being able to do?
Going out and having coffee with my members
Best purchase under 100 pounds
Favourite podcast or Youtube channel
Advice to boost direct bookings
Looking for personal touches a lot of things. Showing things that you’ve done things that you’ve made it your own, not that generic style, not just a typical, put in repeated sort of thing, show something that really personalized.
You may send an email to Simon at email@example.com