Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 October 2020

CORONAVIRUS

Cruel twist of fate as axe falls on Tower of London's Beefeater guards

HRP would not say how many of the Tower's 37 Beefeaters could be made redundant

For the first time in their more than 500-year history, the guardians of the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London are facing job losses because of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on tourism.

The red-coated Beefeaters at the Tower and other employees at six sites managed by the Historic Royal Palaces charity could opt for voluntary redundancy as of last month after a sharp drop in visitors.

HRP said it had no choice but to cut costs, as the charity depends on visitors for 80 per cent of its income and the crisis had slashed visitor numbers and revenues.

But as the coronavirus pandemic takes its toll on the UK, they will probably now face compulsory layoffs.

HRP would not say how many of the Tower's 37 Beefeaters could be made redundant, and vowed a smooth transition and necessary notice periods for any made redundant.

It would be a first for the corps that has been guarding the Tower since the early 16th century, with roots in the mid-15th century.

Beefeaters, formally known as the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard, live and work at the Tower, which dates to the 11th century.

They are known for their ruby and gold or navy blue uniforms and large hats.

Their nickname is thought to stem from the days when the yeomen warders were given a daily ration of meat.

They guard the 1,000-year-old fortress where Henry VIII's second wife Anne Boleyn was executed.

HRP, which manages venues formally owned by the British monarchy, said closing the sites for nearly four months because of Covid-19 devastated its financing.

"We have taken every possible measure to secure our financial position but we need to do more to survive in the long term," said its chief executive, John Barnes.

"We simply have no choice but to reduce our payroll costs."

Mr Barnes called the staff at the sites, which also include parts of Kensington and Hampton Court palaces, "the spirit of our charity" and said HRP was heartbroken about the layoffs.

"The yeomen warders are a valued part of the Tower of London and popular with our visitors," Mr Barnes said, adding that their work would continue "in the years to come".

The charity has had an 87 per cent fall in income, leaving it with a £98 million (Dh455.7m) shortfall this year.

HRP is preparing to operate with half its usual income in the next few years, with the tourism sector expected to make only a slow recovery from the pandemic.

The monument, where the Crown Jewels are kept, normally attracts 3 million visitors a year.

It reopened on July 10 but can now welcome fewer than 1,000 people a day because of the new pandemic safety measures.

The Tower was the eighth most-visited tourist attraction in Britain last year, according to the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, an industry body.

Updated: July 21, 2020 04:54 AM

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