Expect lockdown restrictions until September, says Dalata hotels chief

Hotelier Pat McCann tells Irish Times podcast group can survive 2020 with no revenue

Pat McCann: 'I feel the restrictions will have to go on longer than people expect. A lot of the restrictions will not end before September'. Photograph: Maxwell

Pat McCann: 'I feel the restrictions will have to go on longer than people expect. A lot of the restrictions will not end before September'. Photograph: Maxwell

 

The head of Ireland’s largest hotel group expects a lot of the lockdown restrictions in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus to remain until September.

Speaking to Inside Business, a podcast from The Irish Times, Pat McCann, chief executive of the listed Dalata Hotel Group, said: “I would love to think we’d see some flickers of recovery from September. I have no expectation of anything before that. In reality, this may go on until December and into the new year.

“I feel the restrictions will have to go on longer than people expect. A lot of the restrictions will not end before September and if that was the case then you would have a slow return to normality.”

Mr McCann said Dalata has stressed tested its ability to survive until August and until December. “The answer [to both scenarios] is yes,” he said.

Dalata has closed 29 of its 44 hotels in Ireland and Britain, including the Gibson in Dublin’s docklands and a nearby Clayton hotel on Cardiff Lane.

Its Clayton Dublin Airport property and the Burlington hotel in the capital are among those that remain open, and are being used to accommodate people for the HSE, Dublin City Council and Government departments.

“We are helping the cause in terms of providing accommodation to those people who may otherwise struggle at this point in time,” he said.

Dalata has so far laid off 2,500 staff and introduced pay cuts and short-time working for the remaining employees.

Preserving cash

Mr McCann said preserving cash was key to surviving the crisis, adding that Dalata was in a strong position with €1.5 billion worth of assets on its balance sheet. “We are in a very strong position to withstand the fact that we may have no revenue for at least six or eight months. We own the bulk of our hotels so we have very valuable assets that could be utilised if we need further cash.”

“It gives me a lot of comfort that we can survive this for a very long time,” he said adding that there could yet be more hotel closures.

In terms of the medium term, Mr McCann said this year was one to “make sure you survive”, next year would be about starting to “build back the business and 2022 probably the year when you get back to some levels of normality in terms of visitor traffic and numbers”.

“If we had a definitive end date that would make things easier but unfortunately we don’t.”