A Cork hotelier has called on the government for greater support in the tourism sector during the current Covid-19 emergency.
Owner of Vienna Woods Hotel, Michae Magner, said that the government needs to play its part in ensuring that hoteliers’ businesses are in a position to serve demand from the community when hotels reopen.
Vienna Woods Hotel closed its doors on March 15, a decision which Mr Magner said was “brave” at a time when hotels decided to close when they “didn’t necessarily have to”.
“The reality of it is that some hotels could still stay open if they wanted to if they were servicing a particular need in society or otherwise.
“But the decision was made to close to support this emergency and to support the advice from government and the health authorities.” He said that if “support is one way, it needs to be two way” and said that the 260,000 people employed in the tourism sector need to be ensured that they have jobs to come back to when the current emergency is over.
“We support anything that can help any sector, even competing sectors, but we also need to be looked after and I think the government is missing that at the moment.
“There’s a health emergency, they are focussing on what’s urgent right now but we are going to need that help as well.” He said that while the government's further restriction measures “are welcome”, that there remains anxiety among workers in the tourism sector.
“There’s a lot of anxiety around that among workers in the sector wondering will I have a job to come back to because, while the Covid payments are improved and welcomed, they’re short term and the majority of people actually want to work and they want to be sure that they have their jobs available to them when they come back.
Mr Magner said that there are other sectors for which the closure of hotels and restaurants is having a domino effect in terms of business.
He said that demand for fish and beef has dropped since the closure of hotels, restaurants and fast food restaurants.
He said that such a decline in demand will, in turn, mean that farmers and butchers will find it a difficult time also.
“The government should not just incentify one sector, they need to look at it as a cross basis.
“We’re calling on the government, we need Minister Donohoe, we need Taoiseach Varadkar to come to the table. Both those individuals, the Taoiseach and the Minister for FInance both held portfolios in tourism as part of their careers as well so they know well how fragile the industry is to shock, and the importance of the industry in terms of return to the exchequer, what it contributes annually and the workforce as well.
“Normality will return, it may be different, but a new normality will return and people will want the services of hotels, and restaurants, and pubs. With that in mind, we will have jobs but the demand for those jobs will be based on the business, on our books.
“This isn’t an economic recession, this isn't an overheating of the housing market, this isn’t reckless lending by the banks, this is actually a health emergency,” he said.
He said that the hotel’s doors are “always open” when it comes to helping during the current emergency in whatever capacity needed.
“If there’s proposals or ideas that can help out, we’re always willing to listen and you’ll always see hotels, they’re the first in the community to provide support in terms of community activity and hotels won’t be found wanting. But it has to be on the basis that it's a way forward for everybody into the future,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) welcomed the government's recognition of the role that hotels play in essential non-social and non-tourist services.
President of the Irish Hotels Federation, Elaina Fitzgerald Kane called the measures as essential to tackling the public health crisis and at the same time providing necessary support to those who have lost their jobs.
She warned that further sector specific measures will be required to ensure the recovery of tourism and that the announcement was “not nearly enough to safeguard the future of the tourism sector”.
“Current and future bookings vanished in a matter of days. Revenues plummeted by up to 100% across the sector with a catastrophic impact on cash flow.
“We are calling again on the government to reduce the rates of tourism VAT and employer’s PRSI to zero until we see a recovery,” she said.