Fri, 18 Jun 2021

DUBLIN, Ireland: Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin has announced the phased re-opening of hotels, restaurants, and pubs beginning in June.

The tourism and hospitality industries have perhaps been the hardest hit in Ireland for more than one year.

Earlier attempts at reopening were unsuccessful, as new Covid infections spread across the country.

"I think we have no choice but to stay open at this stage because, for financial survival, we really need to do it," said Niall Coffey, general manager of Harvey's Point Hotel in Donegal in northwest Ireland, as quoted by CNBC.

Plans call for allowing some customers to return to the hotel industry beginning June 2. In the weeks following, bars and restaurants can open, with restrictions on the number of customers served.

Des O'Dowd, owner of the Inchydoney Island Lodge and Spa in Cork, said that businesses have suffered from money lost when they tried to reopen over the past 14 months.

"You try and send back food to suppliers. We've closed twice, having to go through fruit and vegetables and throw it out or try to find a home for that. We've been closed and beer has been going off," O'Dowd told CNBC.

"It is an expensive process to start and stop, and to do that again now would be heart-breaking, so I hope that this is it, that we're opening and there's no going back."

The government earlier said that the hospitality and tourism industry will need support after restrictions are lifted.

In Ireland, tourism brought in $11.3 billion to the economy in 2019. Of this, the government collected $2.4 billion in taxes.

"This time last year we were really facing into an unknown. We were going around with tape measures trying to measure two meters and we had to buy a lot of dividers between tables," O'Dowd said.

Today, he noted, the hotel understands what a safe re-opening looks like, including providing Covid tests for the hotel's 225 employees.

However, there remains much uncertainty as to how many tourists will fill the hotels and restaurants.

Since there will be little international travel in the months ahead, businesses are hoping that domestic tourism will initially bring back customers.

Coffey, however, said that U.S. visitors remain a key market group for his business.

"The golf business would have been quite good for us in the summer season, where we're able to achieve high rates. That's gone," he said.

The good news is that the hotel has started receiving bookings for September and October from American guests.

"Hopefully, we'll see very positive things happening in the U.K. and everywhere that is trialing these things, and that we'll get good results," O'Dowd added.

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