Heightened concerns from NI hoteliers about lack of reopening plan

An industry body representing hotels has added its voice to those expressing frustration with the lack of dates for reopening from Stormont.

Thursday, 8th April 2021, 5:52 pm
Janice Gault said hotels are frustrated and concerned about the lack of an indicative date for reopening

Northern Ireland remains the only part of the UK without indicative reopening dates for key sections of society, including large parts of retail, hospitality and accommodation providers.

Economy Minister Diane Dodds has said she has submitted papers to the Executive with proposals for reopening dates ahead of the next lockdown review set to take place next Thursday.

The chief executive of the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation, Janice Gault, has expressed hope the sector she represents will be included in next week’s review.

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She has also added her voice to those expressing frustration with the lack of movement towards reopening from Stormont, as other UK nations press ahead with a gradual easing of restrictions.

On Monday, England is set to allow self-contained holiday accommodation, including self-catering lets and campsites, to open up again – with restrictions in place.

Hotels and B&Bs, meanwhile, have been given an indicative date of May 17 for reopening.

Ms Gault said: “The Easter break has really heightened concerns within the hotel sector about reopening and the lack of an indicative date.

“This time last year we were a couple of weeks into the first lockdown, moving forward a year and we are now on the 105th day of a third lockdown.”

She continued: “Frustration is growing as there has been no mention of an indicative date for the sector to reopen.

“The industry is mature and responsible enough to recognise that any date may have to be changed if the course of the pandemic alters but uncertainty about the summer season is causing considerable anxiety.

“It is disappointing that no progress towards reopening has been made to date and we look with envy to those in England, Scotland and Wales. The next review is the 15th of April and hotels hope that a pathway will be mapped out at that time.”

Her comments follow similar concerns from the chief executive of Retail NI Glyn Roberts, the chief executive of Hospitality Ulster Colin Neill, the chief executive of Belfast Chamber of Commerce Simon Hamilton, along with many individual businesses.

The chairman of the Motor Caravanners’ Club Northern Ireland, meanwhile, has also expressed frustration with the absence of a date for the reopening of campsites.

Joe Little said: “I don’t want to criticise the chief medical officer or the Health Minister Robin Swann, who are doing a very difficult job which I do not envy.

“It is frustrating that we don’t have a date that we can look towards, and plan for.

“Our last meeting was the weekend of St Patrick’s Day in March 2020.”