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McKeever Hotel Group in call for government support as coronavirus hits bookings

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The Dunadry in Co Antrim is owned by the McKeever Hotel Group

The Dunadry in Co Antrim is owned by the McKeever Hotel Group

The Dunadry in Co Antrim is owned by the McKeever Hotel Group

A major family hotel group has called for short-term relief for hotel businesses in Northern Ireland which have suffered a loss of bookings as a result of coronavirus.

McKeever Hotel Group operates five establishments - Corrs Corner Hotel, Dunsilly Hotel, the Adair Arms and the Dunadry, as well as Dillons Hotel in Letterkenny.

It's become the latest hotel company in Northern Ireland to confirm it's lost out on bookings as the spread of coronavirus hits travel from locations like China and Italy.

Tourism businesses are also expected to take a hit from the collapse of Flybe, which connected Northern Ireland with 14 destinations in Great Britain.

McKeever director Bridgene Keeley said: "We have already seen cancellations from international Groups, mainly from China and Italy.

"Obviously we are concerned of further cancellations going forward and are continuously reviewing the situation."

With the increase in costs for the industry along with the potential loss of business due to coronavirus it may be necessary to look at some sort of short-term relief for business both from government and financial institutions Bridgene Keeley, McKeever Hotel Group

She said industry bodies such as the Northern Ireland Hotel Federation and Hospitality Ulster had been "excellent" in their support and advice. But she said the industry was already facing increased costs such as a rise in the minimum wage, which comes into force in April.

She added: "With the increase in costs for the industry along with the potential loss of business due to coronavirus it may be necessary to look at some sort of short-term relief for business both from government and financial institutions."

Earlier this week, Colum McLornan, the co-owner of Ballycastle's Marine Hotel, said it had suffered the cancellation of 100 bed nights and the loss of £5,000 in lunch bookings.

He felt more should be done to attract 'staycationers'.

"Increasing overseas marketing spend at the moment is a waste of spend as no one is booking," he said.

"A temporary reduction in VAT could help local tourism business in attracting the UK and Ireland market.

"As more UK/Irish people decide to stay at home we hope we see an increase in business from these markets to make up for some of the losses from our international clientele."

Mr McLornan is also managing director of Friendship Travel, which he said is "experiencing cancellations for travel in the coming weeks and new bookings have dried up completely".

And Hastings Hotels said it had increased marketing efforts within the local, UK and Irish markets to "do our best to counteract" the decrease in bookings from further afield.

The Northern Ireland Tourism Alliance this week called an urgent coronavirus summit for members next Tuesday. The private-sector industry body is calling for Economy Minister Diane Dodds to support tourism in Northern Ireland coming up to the summer season.

The National Trust has also confirmed a number of cancellations.

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