| 8.1°C Belfast

Give us a date when we can reopen, hoteliers urge

The Executive announced on Thursday that reservations can be accepted at businesses’ own risk.

Close

The Galgorm Resort in Co Antrim (PA)

The Galgorm Resort in Co Antrim (PA)

The Galgorm Resort in Co Antrim (PA)

Allowing hotels to take advance bookings without disclosing when they can actually open is adding to confusion, owners in Northern Ireland said.

Janice Gault, chief executive of Northern Ireland Hotels Federation (NIHF), said she was disappointed by the Executive’s announcement on Thursday that reservations can be accepted at businesses’ own risk.

Ministers have not set a date when hotels can reopen.

The speed at which lockdown is eased depends on the rate of spread of coronavirus.

Advising hotels that they can take advance bookings without a date only adds to the confusion around when hotels can actually openJanice Gault

Stormont wants to ensure it remains below one new person infected for every patient, to prevent the NHS from becoming overwhelmed with new cases.

Ms Gault said: “Advising hotels that they can take advance bookings without a date 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.”

The NIHF represents luxury lodgings including the Grand Central and Merchant in Belfast, Galgorm resort in Ballymena in Co Antrim and Bishop’s Gate in Londonderry.

Ms Gault added: “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.”

Close

Northern Irish hotelier Bill Wolsey urged ministers to have more courage to spell out when businesses can exit lockdown (Niall Carson/PA)

Northern Irish hotelier Bill Wolsey urged ministers to have more courage to spell out when businesses can exit lockdown (Niall Carson/PA)

PA

Northern Irish hotelier Bill Wolsey urged ministers to have more courage to spell out when businesses can exit lockdown (Niall Carson/PA)

She said she understood further information will be given next month, after ministers have reviewed 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.

“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.”

The reopening of pubs is expected to be among later measures taken, as Northern Ireland emerges from restrictions which have stifled the hospitality industry since March.

The Government’s furlough scheme is designed to safeguard many jobs and has been extended until October.

Prominent Northern Irish hotelier Bill Wolsey has urged ministers to have more courage to spell out when businesses can exit lockdown.

He said the enormous cost to the country could see people having to work longer for their old age pensions, and warned livelihoods depended on clear guidance around reopening dates.

The Galgorm Spa and Golf Resort confirmed it was now open for bookings and planned to have new social distancing procedures in place by July 27.

The hotel said it hoped it would be able to welcome guests by that date.

Colin Johnston, Galgorm Collection managing director, said: “We have for several months been preparing and rehearsing a precision-based approach to reopening which prioritises the health and wellbeing of all our team and our guests which goes above and beyond any guidelines published elsewhere.

“I would stress that this is a target date and that first and foremost, the safety of our team and guests is paramount.

“However, if we get closer to the date and government guidelines deem it is not safe to open we will move the date.”

PA