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Hope NI hotels reopening will lead to resurgence in holidays at home, says industry chief

Janice Gault

Holidaying locally will be key to getting the region's hotel industry back on its feet, the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation chief executive Janice Gault has said.

"Last year tourists from Northern Ireland spent in the region of £300m locally," she said.

"Whilst we are unlikely to achieve this figure in 2020 having lost 14 weeks of trade, we hope to gain traction over the coming months and attract some business that might have gone further afield.

"Local support is imperative and we need income streams such as events, weddings and leisure facilities reopened as soon as possible."

Ms Gault said 2020 will be the "year of the staycation" which she hopes will be a legacy of the pandemic.

"Our job is to make sure it's so good that this pattern becomes the norm and is repeated for years to come," she added.

"In the short term, we see this business being dominated by tourists from Northern Ireland. We are working closely with Tourism Northern Ireland on attracting not only local visitors but those from the south of Ireland as well.

"We would also hope that as transport links improve, we will see guests arrive from England and Scotland, many of whom have strong family ties to this region.

"Tourism Ireland has been researching this market and will have a campaign ready to go live once visitors from GB are ready to travel."

Ms Gault said many of Northern Ireland's hoteliers have signed up to a new 'We're Good to Go' industry standard, a UK-wide scheme operated by Tourism NI which will give customers reassurance that the risks of Covid-19 infection are being controlled with measures in place to mitigate it.

She added: "Hoteliers have their revised standards and procedures and generally these will be available for guests to read or staff will be happy to outline details to guests.

"There will be some physical changes such as screens, along with new digital solutions like QR codes. Contact with customers may be less frequent with hotels adopting online check-in, opting for single use menus and disposable condiments.

"Businesses have opened after carrying out a risk assessment and a lot of changes will occur behind the scenes which we hope will not impact on the guest stay but reduce risk for their visit."

Not all hotels in Northern Ireland opened at the weekend.

Many, including some of the Hastings portfolio, will take longer to integrate new ways of working while some have used the time to refurbish.

Ms Gault added: "Others had been planning for the original opening date of July 20, so they will come on stream later this month or in August. At present, all of our members intend to open and will review the situation over the coming weeks, looking at future business opportunities.

"Hopefully, we will see the return of additional revenue streams like events, full spa service and weddings, albeit with restrictions."

Belfast Telegraph