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Executive needs to give us return date or we will miss out, say Northern Ireland hoteliers

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Claire Hunter of the Marine Hotel

Claire Hunter of the Marine Hotel

Claire Hunter of the Marine Hotel

Hoteliers are urging the Executive to publish a date for when they can resume business so they can take advantage of the reopening of booking systems on June 8 as announced by the Executive on Thursday.

Claire Hunter of the Marine Hotel in Ballycastle said it is impossible to kick start business without an opening date.

"The news that we may be able to take bookings from June 8 is not of any value since we don't know what date guests may be able to come and stay from.

"The supply line and planning needs notice. We need a publicised date to keep us in competitive forum with the Republic of Ireland and the rest of GB. We are the only area without a provisional date. People have been in lockdown for nine weeks, they are planning staycation trips. If we are not available they are going to pre book an available property," she said.

The Northern Ireland Hotels Federation (NIHF) chief executive, Janice Gault, said the announcement was disappointing and confusing.

She said: "Taking a hotel booking on an 'on spec' basis without any agreed pathway is a far from ideal situation. It makes it very difficult to plan, budget and set guidelines for the sector.

"Hotels are frustrated with many now aligning themselves with dates already agreed for opening in the south of Ireland and others using an early July date as indicated by the Prime Minister. It is important to note that hotels respect that all dates are subject to change if there is any move in the 'R' rate or any change to the control of the pandemic."

Nigel McGarrity from the Salthouse Hotel in Ballycastle shared his frustration with his peers. Mr McGarrity who runs the 24-bed eco hotel with his family said: "Our customers are telling us that they are booking hotels in ROI where they can get a guaranteed booking.

"It is not a level playing field and all of this has a knock on effect on revenue planning and forecasting. It is also affecting staff morale as we cannot give our employees any indication as to when they might be able to return to work.

"As a business, we are keen to open in a safe and secure manner giving staff and customers reassurance. We do recognise that all dates are subject to change and that if there is any move in the 'R' rate or change in pandemic control, everything could alter. However, we need to plan and we need a date to work towards."

Minister for the economy Diane Dodds said she recognised the need for a opening date in yesterday's Executive conference.

She said: "I have raised my concerns that our hotels are at a disadvantage compared to competitors in the Republic of Ireland and GB who have already started to take bookings. Ministers have agreed to give this matter further consideration and will provide an update early next week.

"This along with the position of caravan sites, bed and breakfasts and hospitality in general are of the utmost concern."

Belfast Telegraph