NEWS an iconic Weymouth seafront hotel has closed down has been described as a 'severe blow' to the town and the tourism industry.

The Royal Hotel has shut and jobs have been lost after its owner collapsed into administration.

The flagship central seafront hotel was part of Specialist Leisure Group's (SLG) Bay Hotels brand.

The failure of SLG, which also owned Europe's largest coach tour operator Shearings Holidays, has been blamed on the coronavirus pandemic as the company struggled to issue thousands of refunds while new bookings ground to a halt.

All tours, cruises, holidays and hotel breaks booked with SLG have been cancelled.

Weymouth and Portland Chamber of Commerce (WPCC) president, Craig Oakes, says it's a 'severe blow' and fears it might not be the only big name company to go.

"The Royal Hotel is one of Weymouth and Portland’s iconic landmarks and the news that its owners are going into administration is a severe blow to the tourism industry in general," he said.

"We at the WPCC have worked closely with Dorset Chamber to lobby the government directly as to recognising the plight of the tourism market as a whole. Particularly in this area.

"Unfortunately Shearings may not be only big name company that we see fail in the weeks to come.

"Having said this, the resilience of our local business community is second to none and our business owners are strong-willed and will fight all the way to survive.

"We applaud them all and our message is 'hold in there.'"

The three-star Royal Hotel, which has 71 bedrooms, is one of the town's most recognisable buildings.

Opened in 1899, it stands on the site of the former Stacie's Hotel visited by George III. It was used by American forces during the Second World War.

Weymouth's deputy mayor, Cllr Colin Huckle, says he remains hopeful the historic hotel can be saved.

He says despite the Government's help, many businesses are facing difficulties from loss of trading and the town council is working with other organisations, such as the BID, to see what they can do to help bring the high street back to use after lockdown ends.

As well as Bay Hotels and Shearings, SLG owned other travel brands including National Holidays and Wallace Arnold Travel.

In a statement obtained by Travel Weekly, SLG chief executive Richard Calvert said: "This is a terribly sad day for employees, customers and commercial partners of the Specialist Leisure Group and its subsidiaries which have entered into administration.

"The effects of Covid-19 on our 117-year-old company and the wider travel industry have been devastating.

"In the most trying of circumstances, over these past few months, we have fought tooth and nail to save the group and the jobs of our 2,400 loyal employees serving over 1.1 million customers annually.

"It is heart-breaking that the required funding or investment could not be secured to get us through this unprecedented crisis in order to save SLG and our amazing travel brands."