NORTHERN Ireland Hotels Federation (NIHF) CEO Janice Gault has welcomed easements to Covid-19 restrictions announced by the NI Executive last Thursday.
“The hotel industry is going through one of the longest periods of lockdown, currently sitting at 111 days of business closure. We feel that we are often portrayed as part of the problem when in fact we are part of the solution. Hotels offer a safe, well-regulated and COVID-19 compliant environment.
"The Northern Ireland Hotels Federation, on behalf of members, requested an opening date of no later than the 17 May 2021, to allow the industry to take advantage of the summer season, to satisfy staycation demand and stage weddings. Over 1,000 weddings will have been rescheduled, cancelled or staged in a scaled back and unsustainable manner.
"We welcome the news that easements are underway with unlicensed and licensed premises such as restaurants, beer gardens, coffee shops and cafes able to open outdoors on 30 April. Indoor hospitality venues, including pubs and hotels, are then set to reopen on 24 May which is a compromise position but a welcome indicative date. It has been a very difficult day for everyone in the sector with much anxiety and we await the finer details once the final agreement has been outlined.
"The Executive’s decision acknowledges the economic contribution the hotel industry makes to wider society. Indeed, the sector has made a considerable investment ensuring that their premises and their operations are compliant with the regulations.
"The constant narrative of health versus hospitality is indefensible and sets out a binary argument for a situation that is considerably more nuanced and complex. Hotels that have been catering for key workers throughout have been adhering to regulations and protecting those who have been involved in the delivery of vital services. The sector has adapted to be able to do this safely.
"The industry is set to face a challenging summer, but the indicative timeline announced today will give some hope for the future.”
The relaxations have also been welcomed by Angela McGowan, CBI Northern Ireland Director.
“News that some of Northern Ireland’s hardest hit sectors, from retail to close contact services, will reopen shortly will come as a huge relief to many. Prospective dates for reopening hospitality are also welcome, giving firms time to plan for welcoming customers back as safely and effectively as possible," she said.
“While government support has undoubtedly helped to protect many businesses and jobs across Northern Ireland over the past year, it can’t come close to the revenues generated by full time trading. With recent warnings suggesting a bumpy ride ahead, as a lag in demand makes for challenging trading conditions on the ground, many firms are entering an uncertain period in a precarious position.
“While this announcement – in conjunction with progress in vaccine rollout – does offer real hope, every effort must continue to be made to support businesses as they seek to get back up and running. That means the UK Government and Executive working together to instil public confidence and bolster the private sector while the economy gets back on its feet.”