Time to relax curbs on self-catering sector

 

Sir, – Following the Taoiseach’s address to the nation on March 30th, we were obliged to cancel over 120 bookings from people who had hoped to enjoy a relaxing stay in one of our treehouses or self-catering cottages here in west Cork during April.

Despite the relaxation of travel restrictions allowing people to travel within their county from today, the country still remains at Level 5, which means all accommodation must close except for essential workers carrying out essential duties. But nobody seems to have told Airbnb or its “hosts”.

Led by local TD Christopher O’Sullivan, who has spoken to the Taoiseach on this matter, we are calling on Government to end this scandal and provide our sector with a level playing field on which we can all prosper.

Having cancelled in excess of 120 bookings, is it fair that I can book one of more than 300 cottages for a stay between today and April 19th on Airbnb? Of course not. And the Government must act now to end this scandal.

Our solution is for the Government to follow the UK model for self-catering accommodation which treats self-catering differently to hotels, guest houses and B&Bs – on a county-by-county basis to begin with. In the UK, where the seven-day Covid-19 incidence rate is 55, the self-catering sector is opening up today, with hotels to follow on May 17th. Its restrictions state that “self-catering accommodation for household lets of a single family only can resume on April 12th”. This makes perfect sense.

In the local electoral areas of Skibbereen and Bantry, the 14-day incidence rate is less than five. In Cork county as a whole, it is 48, less than the UK.

If people within Cork county can travel to west Cork after today, then an overnight stay where there is no interaction or congregation with other people is perfectly safe – and a couple of nights in a treehouse with a hot-tub will probably do the world of good to someone’s physical and mental well-being.

The Government must act now to review guidelines for the reopening of the self-catering sector, perhaps on the 19th or 26th of this month in line with other restrictions being lifted.

Let us all open, at first to people from within the county in a safe and controlled manner; this will defuse an increasingly volatile situation and provide a “win-win” situation for the Government. – Your, etc,

PETER WARBURTON,

Cottages for Couples,

Skibbereen, Co Cork.