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Belfast restaurateur Deane insists Covid-19 impact minimal so far, but he fears for Northern Ireland tourism

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Michael Deane

Michael Deane

Hospitality Ulster’s Colin Neill

Hospitality Ulster’s Colin Neill

Michael Deane

A Belfast restaurateur says he has not yet felt any negative impact from the Covid-19 virus, however he expressed fears over its effect on summer tourism.

Michael Deane, who has six venues in the city, said that they have only had one cancellation so far as a result of coronavirus, as some guests expected from Asia had not been able to travel.

But he added: "Our bookings in general are pretty healthy. In this wee village here, I am quite confident things will stay the way they are. Deanes will always be open. People forget how resilient we are in Belfast and there has been far worse than this."

Mr Deane said that while suppliers are nervous, he has not experienced any difference in his supply chain.

However, he expresssed concern about the summer and the impact on major attractions.

"How is somewhere like Titanic Belfast going to cope? Thousands of Japanese and Chinese tourists are coming through and we also get them coming through the door. I would be unsure if the same numbers will be coming now."

Meanwhile, trade body Hospitality Ulster met Economy Minister Diane Dodds yesterday to discuss the potential impact of coronavirus. Hospitality Ulster chief executive Colin Neill said: "There are several barriers to growth hanging over the hospitality sector such as the out-of-kilter rates system, access to labour post-Brexit, and a competitive disadvantage on hospitality VAT, which has now all been compounded by the concerns over coronavirus.

"We reiterated to the minister that the hospitality industry is taking nothing for granted and carrying out all the preventative measures it can.

"We also updated the minister that we have issued guidance which will be updated as the situation develops and that we continues to operate high standards of hygiene and cleanliness, encouraging our members to reinforce those standards at all times. Now is the time we need the most support from government to see us through this concerning period."

He said pubs, restaurants and hotels were susceptible to the risk of people decided not to go out.

"We have already seen a number of impacts on the sector in Northern Ireland and the island of Ireland and we are right to be worried about what the next number of weeks and months might hold."

Peter McAlindon, director at Direct Wine Shipments, said it had not yet had an impact on business, including any effect on imports of wines from Italy.

"We did receive notification from a the general manager from Hunter's Wines in New Zealand who was due in the UK and Ireland in April," he said.

"This overseas trip has now been postponed."

Mr McAlindon added Prowein, the world's biggest wine show, which has visitors from all over the globe and was to take place in Dusseldorf in a few weeks, has now been cancelled.

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