Dalata hopes hotels will be able to reopen ahead of July target

Hotel group has shuttered 29 of 44 properties and laid off two-thirds of staff temporarily

Pat McCann: “We are having to be very creative.”

Pat McCann: “We are having to be very creative.”

 

The chief executive of Dalata Hotel Group, Ireland’s biggest hotel operator, hopes the sector can reopen before the July 20th target set by the Government.

Pat McCann’s ambition is based on the progress made by the State so far in reducing the volume of new cases of Covid-19, something which he hopes could advance the date for the reopening of hotels to June. “That then would allow hotels to get a longer run” in the all important summer months, he said.

He acknowledged his company would need to be creative on reopening, such as offering self-isolation services.

The Government laid out a roadmap on Friday for gradually easing its coronavirus lockdown, under which hotels are expected to start operating again with limited capacity in two-and-a-half months, provided the spread of the virus remains under control.

Mr McCann said the industry was pleased a plan was in place but disappointed that it would only have five weeks before schools return from summer holidays to attract guests. But he acknowledged any shift towards an earlier reopening would depend on whether the virus was contained.

“What we’d be hoping is that, if things went better, there may be an opportunity to bring that date back somewhat,” Mr McCann said in a telephone interview, adding that a 20km limit on travel would also need to be lifted sooner if hotels were to reopen ahead of schedule.

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Dalata has temporarily shut 29 of its 44 hotels in Ireland and Britain, temporarily laying off more than two-thirds of its staff. The 15 hotels still operating were housing self-isolating health workers and are not available to be booked by the public.

Mr McCann said the group has already seen an uptick in reservations since the Government announced its plans. However, he noted that not all of Dalata’s hotels would reopen as soon as the lockdown is lifted.

“Some of the hotels will open and those that open will be done on a limited basis...For example, our meeting rooms and event spaces won’t reopen,” he said, adding that all of the company’s hotels will be open and operational by the end of this year.

Mr McCann said hotels could in future offer a dedicated service to corporate travellers, who under current restrictions would need to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival in Ireland.

“We are having to be very creative,” said Mr McCann, who expects an initial pick up in travel by executives from multinational companies with operations in Ireland. But he expected corporate travel to resume slowly as many companies continued operating remotely at first before gradually returning to normal.

Government support

Mr McCann said further Government support, such as reducing value added tax (VAT) payments, would be needed to limit closures in the industry.

McCann suggested cutting the rate to 7 per cent from 13.5 per cent, which would make it a similar level to Germany, would be welcomed.

Dalata said it would seek to expand in Britain, where it now owns or leases 12 hotels, as opportunities “may arise sooner rather than later” as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

“My intention is take full advantage of this crisis,” he said. – Reuters