Hotel quarantine unlikely to hit State’s tourism image – Fáilte Ireland

Discussion of reopening plan on Inside Business podcast

Fáilte Ireland chief executive   Paul Kelly: ‘The quality of the welcome that visitors have gotten over the last 50 years coming to Ireland . . . stands to us so so well internationally.’

Fáilte Ireland chief executive Paul Kelly: ‘The quality of the welcome that visitors have gotten over the last 50 years coming to Ireland . . . stands to us so so well internationally.’

 

Ireland’s tough mandatory hotel quarantine regime is unlikely to negatively affect the perception of the Republic as a welcoming place to visit, the head of State tourism agency Fáilte Ireland has said.

In an interview with Inside Business, a podcast by The Irish Times, Paul Kelly, Fáilte Ireland’s chief executive, said: “Going into hotel quarantining is absolutely not welcoming but it is required from a public health consideration for the health of the wider population. It is a pretty draconian measure, which is obviously required in pretty difficult circumstances. 

“We don’t know is the honest answer what impact it will have on long-term perceptions but I don’t think it will have a particularly strong impact on the long-term perception of Ireland as a welcoming place. The quality of the welcome that visitors have gotten over the last 50 years coming to Ireland . . . stands to us so so well internationally.

“Everyone understands that different countries have had to respond appropriately during the pandemic and it’s a different time . . . and what’s going to be important is our ability to get open quickly, once it’s safe.”

The Republic introduced mandatory hotel quarantining on March 26th, with visitors from more than 70 countries, including important tourist markets such as the United States and France, at one point or another required to quarantine at a designated facility for up to 14 days.

Staycations

Fáilte Ireland last week launched a €4 million campaign to promote staycations, with hotels across the country gearing up to reopen to guests on June 2nd, having been in lockdown for the past five months.

Elaina Fitzgerald Kane, sales director of the family-run Woodlands House Hotel & Spa in Adare, Co Limerick, said it had spent in the region of €1 million preparing the 89-bedroom property to reopen to the public.

The hotel has put in new outdoor dining areas, expanded its car parking, upgraded its lobby, leisure club and spa, and designed self-guided tours.

“We just can’t wait to welcome guests back. We’ve worked really hard to get ready,” she said.

Ms Fitzgerald Kane, who is also president of the Irish Hotels Federation, said the cost of reopening across the industry was about €1,000 per bedroom.

“The average hotel has 75 bedrooms so that’s a €75,000 cost,” she said. “So if you never did any upskilling or added any additional features, there are still huge costs of reopening.”

The Woodlands has occupancy rates of more than 60 per cent on its books for June and July but Ms Fitzgerald Kane expressed concern about the period from September onwards.

She called on the Government to extend the various Covid financial supports until next March, the point at which tourists are expected to begin to return to Ireland in significant numbers. The supports are due to expire at the end of June.

‘Not dependent’

“I cannot wait for the day that I’m not dependent on Government supports,” she said. “But we don’t know what September onwards is going to look like. In some cases the supports need to be in place until the end of March next year, in terms of the EWSS [employment wage subsidy scheme] and local authority rates [waiver], because that’s going to be the beginning of what we hope will be our first proper season [post pandemic].”

She also called for the temporary 9 per cent VAT rate to be extended indefinitely. “That is the right rate of VAT and sits slap bang in the middle of our European partners. Also, this year nobody has had the opportunity to get the full advantage of it because we have been closed off for half the year.”

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