‘Heartbroken’ former boss Vince Flower is hoping three Torbay hotels can be saved after the shock collapse of a well-known holiday company this week. Meanwhile, council leaders fear the demise of the Specialist Leisure Group – and with it the household Shearings and Wallace Arnold brand names – is just a taste of things to come for the English Riviera’s tourism industry which has been blitzed by the pandemic. The future of the landmark Torbay Hotel on Torquay seafront, the Tor Park in the town and the Esplanade on Paignton promenade is now in doubt. More than 100 jobs have been lost. Well-known Torbay business figure Mr Flower was in charge of the hotels while he spent 28 years as the director of SLG’s hotels division and they – and their staff – are close to his heart. He retired in 2018, but said: “I feel so sorry for the staff. It is very, very sad, a tragedy. I just found it distressing after I spent so many years with hundreds if not thousands of wonderfully-dedicated staff. It is heartbreaking. I just hope the hotels are saved.” An appeal has gone to the tourism minister for extra help for the sector, saying measures are needed while the local economy recovers in ‘intensive care’. In a letter from Torbay Council leader Steve Darling and his coalition partner and deputy leader Darren Cowell they say 12,000 jobs could be lost in the Bay. They add: “There is acute concern from many business owners about their ability to survive the year. “Torbay needs a raft of measures that will put the local economy on intensive care until next spring, when we would hope to have our hospitality industry remerge.” The measures include a bespoke furlough scheme and a reduction of VAT to five per cent for tourist related activity. The leaders are also calling for the rapid development of guidelines to demonstrate safe practices to allow businesses to open, provide consumer confidence and prevent spread of the virus as well as a ’timely delivery’ of millions of pounds in grant funding to regenerate the town centres in Torquay and Paignton. The administrators say they will be ‘seeking to realise the remaining assets of the Group’s business for the benefit of creditors and we are therefore seeking offers from interested parties’.