Hoteliers look on bright side as they dust down and fling open the doors

Reopening of tourism and hospitality expected to help inject €1 billion into economy

The Imperial Hotel in Cork: general manager Bastien Peyraud said when it closed for the first lockdown in March 2020, it was the first time the building had fully shut its doors in more than 200 years.

The Imperial Hotel in Cork: general manager Bastien Peyraud said when it closed for the first lockdown in March 2020, it was the first time the building had fully shut its doors in more than 200 years.

 

Hotel and related tourism accommodation owners are optimistic about the reopening of the hospitality sector to non-essential guests today after several months of closure.

The reopening of tourism and hospitality will help inject an estimated €1 billion into the economy in the coming months, according to Fáilte Ireland.

Hotel restaurants and bars will be open to residents only, and the usual health protection protocols such as face coverings and social distancing will be applied.

Outdoor dining services for restaurants, cafes and pubs will reopen from Monday, June 7th.

In a statement about the reopening of B&Bs, hostels, guesthouses and other tourism accommodation, Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin said there was cause for “cautious optimism” as the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines gathers pace and encouraged people to “keep discovering the delights our country has to offer.”

However, she was “acutely aware of the importance of international visitors”, she said.

The owner of the guest house judged to be the best in Ireland by Tripadvisor, Susan Daly, is “praying that the weather will hold” and “all set to welcome guests back,” she told Newstalk Breakfast.

Ms Daly, of Daly’s House in Doolin, Co Clare said bookings were good, with a lot of Irish for the coming weeks and more from the US in August, September and October.

Chef Kevin Dundon, proprietor of Dunbrody House, Co Wexford told the same programe that bookings were good and that all of his staff were returning, except one barman who has changed career to become a window fitter.

On RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland, Adrian Elliot of Glasson Glamping in Co Westmeath saidthey had used the time during lockdown to make significant changes and all their accommodation now had individual cooking and cleaning facilities and check-ins were completed out of doors.

Dick Ridge of Paduma Village in Portumna, Co Galway also told Morning Ireland that they too had utilised the time to introduce changes to their eco pods and cabins, including outdoor dining spaces for up to 50 people covered with a canopy.

Mr Ridge said that they were fortunate most of the staff were family members and that after a number of “false starts”, they had taken a cautious approach and waited until there was a definite date before taking bookings.

People were “weather watching”, he said, so the bookings were slow but steady.

Mr Elliot said that as a new venture, the business did not have a trading history which was required to avail of Government Covid-19 upports. “We did a lot of the work ourselves, we wouldn’t have been able to borrow to do the work.”

Meanwhile, staff at the historic Imperial Hotel in Cork were celebrating on Wedneday as they opened their doors after “what is hopefully the last period of forced closure.”

Over the last 200 years, the hotel has played host to many famous faces, including all nine Presidents of Ireland, royals, and Hollywood stars.

It has also welcomed notable historical figures including slave abolitionist Frederick Douglass, and Irish revolutionary Michael Collins who famously spent his final night at the hotel before being assassinated in Béal na Bláth the next day.

During its history, it has overcome many hardships, including the burning of Cork and a number of recessions, but hotel management say the Covid-19 pandemic is one of the most “surreal”.

General manager Bastien Peyraud said when it closed for the first lockdown in March 2020, it was the first time the building had fully shut its doors in more than 200 years.

“It was emotional to say the least - and unbelievable. We even struggled to find a key for our front door on the South Mall It was lockable from the inside, but we never, ever, had a reason to lock it from the outside, leaving the building completely empty. It was quite a surreal moment,” said Mr Peyraud.

“The effect on our people, the Imperial Family as we call them, has been the most difficult thing. Some of our team have been with the hotel for more than 40 years and they found it really tough not coming in.

“Over the past year, we put numerous measures in place to protect their mental health and wellbeing, they underwent training, and we built a virtual community so we could all stay connected, with everything from virtual walks to competitions and storytelling.,” he said.

“However, nothing beats seeing everyone together again, and the wide smiles on the faces of our team as we prepare to open.”

He said because of the measures The Imperial put in place, staff retention has not been an issue.

Mr Peyraud said he is cautiously optimistic about occupancy rates for the season ahead.

“We’re currently at about 30 per cent occupancy for the summer, which is obviously well below our usual 90 per cent rate at this time of year, but we expect bookings to increase over the coming weeks as more people get vaccinated and as the schools break for summer.

“The Flynn family, who own the hotel, live by the motto of ‘making sure your business is local’.

“We have therefore always put a huge emphasis on the local community and hopefully that will get us through the summer ahead. However, the supports will need to continue until we’re back at a normal playing field to do business.”

Bookings for the summer are “very strong” at the Druids Glen Hotel and Golf Resort in Wicklow.

“Right through to the end of September we’ve got good bookings out in beautiful county Wicklow. The family and staycation market are really strong so we’re feeling very positive,” said general manager Aidan Ryan, who also manages the Royal Marine Hotel in Dún Laoghaire.

He said the capital is “a different market at the moment because people either want to stay out of Dublin or are not as inclined to go there as they are to the regions.”

However, there has been “great pickup” in recent weeks. “We’re very hopeful. It’s a reawakening of the hotel sector and everybody’s in good form,” he said.