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NI's hospitality chiefs welcome guidelines for safe reopening of pubs, restaurants and hotels

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NIHF chief Janice Gault

NIHF chief Janice Gault

PA

Hospitality Ulster CEO Colin Neill

Hospitality Ulster CEO Colin Neill

@Press Eye/Darren Kidd

NIHF chief Janice Gault

Guidance on how pubs, restaurants and hotels can safely reopen on July 3 was welcomed by the hospitality sector after it was released last night.

Industry leaders had called on the Executive to release the guidelines as soon as possible, as many business owners were in the dark as to how to set up their premises with social distancing rules in place.

The guidance - 'Working Safely During Covid-19 in the Visitor Economy Sector' - is aimed at business owners, operators and workers in hotels and other tourist accommodation, indoor and outdoor attractions, and hospitality businesses including restaurants, cafes and pubs.

It was previously announced by the Executive that caravan parks, camping sites and self-catering accommodation can reopen this Friday, while hotels could reopen on July 3.

Restaurants, cafes and pubs could also reopen on this date for the provision of food.

Within the document it recommends that employers provide bike racks for workers to encourage other means of transport.

It also states that radios or telephones should be used to limit employees moving around a building and people should avoid working face-to-face to limit spreading Covid-19.

Hospitality Ulster, along with UK Hospitality and the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation (NIHF), provided input for the document.

Chief executive of Hospitality Ulster Colin Neill praised Economy Minister Diane Dodds, saying she had been a "champion" for the industry and its survival.

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Hospitality Ulster CEO Colin Neill

Hospitality Ulster CEO Colin Neill

@Press Eye/Darren Kidd

Hospitality Ulster CEO Colin Neill

"The publication of the guidance is good news in the sense that it allows those parts of our industry that can reopen on July 3 to make preparations for reopening," he said.

"The entire industry has been dealt the biggest body blow for a generation and for many business owners it has swept the feet from under them. We are now hopefully emerging from that extremely difficult period.

"We fear that many have not been able to survive the financial impact of the pandemic, and that others are not going to be commercially viable, but we need to get at it and open and get customers back.

"Our sector is far too important to the local economy and the social fabric of Northern Ireland and we will need our politicians to do all they can to maintain support."

Mr Neill added the reopening of the hospitality sector is only the beginning of a precarious situation where redundancies and closures will be unavoidable.

NIHF chief executive Janice Gault said that the guidelines will give added reassurance to staff, customers and visitors ahead of next week's reopening.

"The NIHF acknowledges and appreciates the considerable support Economy Minister Diane Dodds and her Executive colleagues have given to the sector," said Ms Gault.

"The guidelines are augmented by an industry framework, which will ensure that the sector can open in a safe and secure manner.

"Hoteliers are looking forward to playing a pivotal role in restoring tourism and contributing to the local economy in a significant way.

"It is imperative that we open in an orderly manner and that we put the health and wellbeing of staff to the fore.

"The size and diversity of the hospitality sector means that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to reopening. Across our industry there are many sub-sectors and widely different businesses models."

In partnership with other tourist boards across the UK, a new industry standard and consumer mark is being developed to reassure customers that businesses have adopted the guidelines.

Mrs Dodds commented that while the guidelines will help the retail sector, she reminded everyone that social distancing and good hygiene is vital to stop the spread of the virus.

"The reopening of our tourism and hospitality sectors is essential to the rebuilding of our economy," she said.

"The return of tourists and customers to our hotels, caravan parks, restaurants, cafes and pubs is undoubtedly a boost for the industry as a whole.

"However, the application of social distancing and hygiene practices is vital. We must ensure the transmission of the virus is minimised and we need to reassure customers, employees and visitors that establishments are as Covid-19-safe as possible.

"That is why the publication of this guidance today is so important. It is the responsibility of businesses to read it and apply it.

"It is also the responsibility on all of us as visitors and customers to play our part in tackling the pandemic and to behave responsibly."

Mrs Dodds added that customers will have the extra reassurance of an industry standard.

Belfast Telegraph