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Hotels 'disappointed' by plan to allow them to take bookings with no reopening date

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The Bullitt Hotel in Belfast being boarded up during lockdown

The Bullitt Hotel in Belfast being boarded up during lockdown

The Bullitt Hotel in Belfast being boarded up during lockdown

The Northern Ireland Executive has been accused of creating "confusion" after announcing hotels could be allowed to take bookings, with no reopening date set in stone.

Allowing hotels to take bookings was one of the lockdown relaxation measures proposed by the Executive at their daily briefing on Thursday.

If the infection rate does not increase then hotels could be allowed to take bookings from June 8.

However the Executive has not indicated when they could potentially reopen.

First Minister Arlene Foster said more information on the matter would be available next week following the publishing of further guidance from the Department of Economy.

The Northern Ireland Hotels Federation (NIHF) said the sector had been left "disappointed" by the announcement.

However Mrs Foster defended the decision and denied it was contradictory.

"I think we've been listening very carefully to not just what hoteliers have been saying to us, but right across the tourism sector," the DUP leader said.

"They are saying to us that they want to take bookings at risk and we're saying to them they are of course free to take bookings at risk.

"The economy minister is also bringing forward next week, she's going to look right across the tourism and particularly the accommodation sector, to see what more guidance we can give them in relation to that."

Mrs Foster said it would allow hotels to plan for the future.

"If someone rings up and wants to book a hotel in advance for sometime in late summer that is a matter for them, they can take that booking, then if we can come forward and say, before that time, that hotels can open then that booking can be realised," the First Minister said.

"We absolutely recognise the devastating impact this has had, particularly on the tourism industry."

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NIHF chief executive Janice Gault

NIHF chief executive Janice Gault

NIHF chief executive Janice Gault

However NIHF CEO Janice Gault said the announcement "only adds to the confusion around when hotels can actually open".

"As an industry, we are keen to open in a safe and secure manner giving staff and customers reassurance. Taking a hotel booking on an ‘on spec’ basis without any agreed pathway is a far from ideal situation," she said.

"It makes it very difficult to plan, budget and set guidelines for the sector. We understand further information will be imparted on the 8th June after the Executive has reviewed specific information on the entire accommodation 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."

Mrs Gault said hotels respected 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.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said that the decision "represents forward momentum".

"It's signposting to the fact hotels should be getting ready to take bookings," the Sinn Fein vice-President said.

"It's not just hotels, it's also B&Bs, self-catering, caravans, all those things.

"I think today is forward momentum and we'll come back to you next week whenever we have this paper around the whole tourism sector."

Belfast Telegraph