HOSPITALITY businesses in Worcestershire are preparing for a "make or break" Christmas season amid fears a rise in Covid cases could hit the industry.

Christmas parties are booked in diaries at venues across the county but there are worries that, if Covid cases rise, these events could be cancelled, leaving pubs and restaurants high and dry at their most important time of the year.

Nigel Smith, who runs the Cardinal's Hat in Worcester and the Fleece Inn at Bretforton, said preparations are going ahead as normal for Christmas, but that they are preparing for any eventuality.

He said: "It is make or break Christmas - because January is a long old month.

"We are all just happy to be open at all after last Christmas, so we are really looking to increase the festive activities we do at the Hat and the Fleece.

"In terms of bookings, both places are looking really strong, probably the best we've had it since 2019.

"That being said, we are preparing for a rise in cases and doing what we can to keep everyone safe."

Mr Smith added office Christmas party bookings were slightly down on what they would usually be this time of year, but said he and his staff were "bullish" and looking forward to the festive season.

Venues including Worcestershire County Cricket Club and Sixways Stadium regularly host dozens of office Christmas parties and large gatherings each year.

A Worcester Warriors spokesman said the club is continuing to make Sixways a safe place to go, urging people not to come if they show Covid symptoms.

They said: "As a club we follow Government and Public Health England guidelines on COVID and have implemented measures to ensure that all visitors to Sixways and staff are safe.

"We have not had to cancel any rugby matches because of Covid-19 and our events programme has returned gradually as the latest Covid-19 programme has permitted.

"In the past week we have successfully staged three matches – Modus Cup with a crowd of 3,000, Warriors v Bristol Bears with a crowd of more than 6,000 and England Women with a crowd of 7,500.

"We are about to open Skate at Sixways – an outdoor skating rink - and have a busy programme of Christmas parties starting this weekend.

"We have an outdoor German-style Kristmausfest on Friday and Saturday this week.

"We know that Covid has not gone away and so we remain vigilant. Anyone who visits or works at the stadium who shows any of the COVID symptoms should not come to Sixways and should take a Lateral Flow Test and, if necessary, a PCR test."

Ahead of Christmas, the government has advised people to take a lateral flow test before going to crowded places like shopping centres or hospitality venues.

Adam Giagnotti, who runs the Olive Branch restaurant in the city, also said bookings have been strong, with people wanting to get back to normal after Christmas was ruined by Covid last year.

He added: "We are all gearing up for Christmas now, this last week of November is a really busy one for us as we are doing all our ordering for the Christmas Market.

"We are all relieved we can be back open again, especially knowing it can all be taken away if the restrictions come back in again.

"We are lucky that our bookings and sales are good enough that we don't need Christmas to be make or break."