Coronavirus: 450 jobs under threat at Newport's Celtic Manor company

Celtic Manor Resort Image copyright Gareth James/Geograph
Image caption The main five-star Celtic Manor Resort has 400 bedrooms

Almost half of the nearly 1,000 jobs at one of Wales' best-known hotels are to be lost due to the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on the tourism sector.

Bosses at the Celtic Collection in Newport, which staged golf's Ryder Cup in 2010 and the 2014 Nato Conference, told staff that 450 of its 995 posts are to be made redundant.

The company, owned by Wales' first billionaire Sir Terry Matthews, is one of Newport's major employers.

Affected staff have been sent a letter.

The Welsh Government said the first minister would announce changes on Friday, to be phased in over three weeks, that will see parts of Wales' visitor, hospitality, leisure and tourism industries reopen.

The five-star hotel has been shut since the coronavirus lockdown began on 23 March and when it reopens on 14 July, it will only do so "under reduced capacities and restricted facilities in line with safety guidelines to mitigate the risk of coronavirus".

"It is clear the Covid-19 crisis will continue to have a catastrophic effect on the global economy, our nation and the travel, tourism and events industries for many months to come," said a company statement.

Image caption Former US President Barack Obama shakes hands with Wales' First Minister Carwyn Jones at the 2014 Nato Conference at Celtic Manor

"The Celtic Collection must reshape and resize its business to ensure that it is fit for the future.

"With drastically reduced occupancies and revenues, its current financial model is not sustainable," it said.

What is the Celtic Collection?

The Celtic Collection has 650 bedrooms across four hotel sites - including the main 400-bedroom resort - while another 154-room budget hotel is currently being built in nearby Langstone next to the Coldra junction of the M4.

The £83m International Convention Centre Wales opened last year - a joint venture with the Welsh Government - on a 2,000-acre site overlooking the M4 motorway on the east of Newport.

The 5,000-capacity venue, built with a £22.5m Welsh Government grant, boasted an evening with Hollywood movie superstar Arnold Schwarzenegger as one of its first events after opening in September 2019.

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption The 2,000-acre Celtic Manor site includes a new golf course built especially to host the 2010 Ryder Cup

The portfolio also includes three golf courses, numerous restaurants, two spas, a country inn, a children's nursery and an adventure playground.

How did it become so well-known?

Sir Terry, Wales' fourth richest man with an estimated wealth of £1.24bn, bought the Manor House and former hospital site in 1980.

Image caption Sir Terry Matthews has founded or funded about 100 companies in high-tech communications

The 77-year-old electronics entrepreneur, who was born at the old Lydia Beynon Maternity Hospital in June 1943, transformed the area into one of the UK's best-known hotel and golf complexes.

He built three championship golf courses - including the new Twenty Ten course for the 2010 Ryder Cup, a biannual showpiece event where the best golfers from Europe play the best from the United States.

Entertainers like TV presenters Ant and Dec, Hollywood actor Michael Douglas, American singer Meat Loaf and comedian Rob Brydon have starred in the hotel's annual Celebrity Cup golf tournament.

But the impact of the coronavirus crisis has meant the Celtic Manor group has had to make the "extremely difficult decision" to start consulting staff for redundancy.

'Devastating economic consequences'

"This figure is based on the current restrictions surrounding hospitality and tourism," added the Celtic Manor statement.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Europe beat the United States in the first four-day rain-affected Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor

"The total may reduce significantly should more of our facilities be permitted to reopen during the consultation period."

The company says it "deeply regrets having to take this course of action in response to the devastating economic consequences" of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Celtic Manor added it "understands the enormous impact this will have on the livelihoods of affected team members and their families".

"Everything possible will be done to support those affected and an employees' consultative panel has been involved in the decision-making process," added the statement.

What has the reaction been?

Lorraine Gaskell, of the GMB, called on Sir Terry to help.

"This is terrible news for Newport," she said.

"This workforce has helped to make Terry Matthews the first billionaire in Wales, so we think it's only right that in these unprecedented times, he puts his hand into his very well lined pocket and keeps the staff on furlough."

She dubbed the decision "short sighted and cruel".

"When this pandemic passes, he will need their skills, hard work and dedication to keep the Celtic Manor Resort as one of Wales' premier venues."

The Welsh Government said it was "doing everything we can to help" and had instigated the "most generous" business support package in the UK.

"Although the UK government's decision to reduce the VAT rate on the hospitality sector is welcomed we will continue to ask for sectoral employment protection schemes for sectors such as tourism, hospitality and events which continue to be closed or very substantially impacted by Covid-19 measures," a spokesman said.

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