Hotelier blasts policy
Sir Rocco Forte: ‘end draconian lockdown’
Sir Rocco Forte: ‘allow us to get on with our lives’
Hotelier Sir Rocco Forte has criticised the lockdown measures and says people should be allowed to get on with their lives.
Sir Rocco, whose business empire include the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh, described the current policy as “draconian”, and said the mandatory wearing of facemasks is “a bit of a nonsense”.
“I am a complete cynic about the whole situation. For most young people who get Covid, it’s a walk in the park,” he says in an interview this weekend.
“Therefore, the whole country shouldn’t be forced to lock down and follow restrictions because of a group of people who are at risk. We should be allowed to get on with our lives in the normal way.”
Balmoral Hotel: bookings severely hit (pic: Terry Murden)
Sir Rocco, who has recently opened a hotel in Rome, was struck down with coronavirus the day the Government announced the lockdown in March. Now 75, he took three weeks to recover. He has resumed the intensive training regime he took up in his 50s.
He believes the lockdown is more damaging than the disease.
Speaking to MailOnline, he says: “The economic damage is going to be huge and we haven’t seen the beginning of it yet – the unemployment that is going to be created, and the families that will be destroyed as a result of that.
“It is understandable that the Government is cautious, but this lockdown has gone on for too long. We need to find ways to normalise the situation as quickly as possible: stop scaring people into thinking everyone who catches the disease is going to die, and get places open.”
Sir Rocco is the son of the legendary Trusthouse Forte founder Lord Forte.
It ran 800 hotels from Sandy Lane in Barbados to the Hotel George V in Paris, and he resented its acquisition by TV group Granada.
In 1996 with sister Olga Polizzi he founded Rocco Forte Hotels which, apart from the Balmoral, also a further 13 hotels including the Hotel Astoria in St Petersburg.
It has suffered badly from the lockdown and last week, he was forced to make 20% his 450 UK staff redundant and forecasts a £60 million loss this financial year.
“We are looking at a maximum of 20 to 25% occupancy across the group – and some are much lower than that,’ he says.
He says that instead of raising taxes the Chancellor should increase the size of the economy.
“I see the pandemic as a temporary blip,” says Forte – although he admits the uncertainty scares him.
“The financial crash was a very difficult time but you could see the light at the end of the tunnel,” he says. “With this crisis, you can’t.”