Coronavirus is accelerating structural change in the UK’s travel and leisure sector, and exacerbating existing weaknesses according to business advisory firm EY.
According to EY, FTSE travel and leisure firms have issued more than two years’ worth of profit warnings in 2020 already – 95% of which cite Covid-19 as a factor.
This is six times the number (nine) issued during same period last year (1 January to 13 May), EY’s latest profit warnings report reveals.
Across the entire economy, travel and tourism was the most dramatically affected sector during Q1 with 70% of FTSE travel and leisure businesses issuing a profit warning during the first three months of the year.
In total, EY recorded 301 profit warnings during Q1 – just 12 shy of the 313 issued during the entirety of 2019 and 5% higher than then 287 issued during 2018.
Lisa Ashe, EY restructuring partner, said: “Covid-19 has created new problems, but it has also accelerated existing structural change and exacerbated existing weaknesses.
"When lockdown lifts, it will undoubtedly ease some pressures, but these underlying issues will remain.
"Businesses will need to plan carefully to consider what the new ’normal’ looks like for both customers and suppliers and reshape their businesses accordingly."
Mark Hemming, EY travel leader, added: “The travel and leisure industry was hit hard and fast by the necessary actions employed to limit the spread of the coronavirus, with many effectively shutting down overnight.
"Some took swift action to conserve cash and access government support, however surviving the lockdown is just the first hurdle.
"The challenge now is preparing to emerge safely from lockdown, amid uncertain demand, in a staged return to a new form of normality.”
EY though is warning of a "difficult reboot", with profit warnings likely to fall but "distress levels" likely to rise – echoing the aftermath of the 2008/09 financial crisis.
“Anticipating a staged end to the lockdown, we expect travel and leisure sub-sectors to recover at different paces," said Hemming. "Broadly speaking, travel will emerge more slowly behind leisure and hospitality.
“There is likely to be a difference between domestic and internationally oriented markets, especially when travel restrictions are expected to relax at different times.
"Demand will also vary significantly between consumer and business markets, linked to confidence and the appetite to spend, which will leave businesses running at reduced capacity for the foreseeable future.”