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'Beefeaters' facing layoffs as coronavirus hits tourism


Agence France-Presse

London  /  Wed, July 22, 2020  /  06:08 pm
'Beefeaters' facing layoffs as coronavirus hits tourism

Britain's Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Britain's Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall pose with members of the Yeoman Warders during their visit to The Tower of London, central London on February 13, 2020, to mark 535 years since the creation of the (Beefeaters) and to celebrate 50 years of the British Tourist Authority. (AFP/Eddie Mulholland)

The guardians of the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London are facing job losses because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on tourism, the charity running the venue said Monday.

Historic Royal Palaces (HRP) said it had "no choice" but to cut costs, as the crisis had slashed visitor numbers and revenues.

The red-coated "Beefeaters" at the Tower and other employees at six sites managed by HRP could opt for voluntary redundancy as of last month.

But as the full extent of COVID-19's impact on the UK economy becomes clear, they will likely now face compulsory layoffs.

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 Body Guard of the Yeoman of the Guard -- live and work at the Tower, which dates to the 11th century.

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

HRP, which manages venues formally owned by the British monarchy, said closing the sites for nearly four months because of COVID-19 had been a "devastating blow to our finances".

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"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."

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

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

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

HRP is entirely self-funded, with 80 percent of its income in the last financial year coming from visitors.

It has seen an 87 percent fall in income, leaving it with a £98 million (US$124 million) shortfall this year.

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

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

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