After 15 years of business, Michael Magner of Vienna Woods Hotel has closed his doors amid the coronavirus pandemic in what he calls an “unprecedented act of God.”
Vienna Woods is the first city hotel to close following the Government appeal to the public to minimise social contact to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
The hotelier said the welfare of his staff, support for the Government and the safeguarding of his business were the main reasons for closing his doors.
Mr Magner told his 100-plus staff on Saturday of his decision to close and said it was one of the hardest days in his life.
“We knew we had to do it, but it was so hard because none of us wanted to stop working,” Mr Magner said.
“I have laid off over a hundred people. I am the first hotel to close and I think this is the reality of what lies ahead.”
Speaking to The Echo, he called on the Government to offer advice and direction along with financial supports to businesses in this time of crisis.
“While I appreciate the Government is putting the health services first, they need to offer support, this is not a recession, this is an unprecedented force majeure, if you will, act of God and in a time like this we look to the Government for leadership.”
Mr Magner said ‘crisis’ was too tame a word to use in the current situation and said that people’s mental health could be affected in the coming days and weeks.
“I have laid off my staff and I don’t know when I am going to reopen again and that is where we need advice and direction not just in hotels, but in restaurants and bars.”
The hotelier said that while Government had urged businesses to close and supplement staff incomes, he said it is not always possible.
"Some businesses may be able to do something but the reality is others cannot," he said.
"In the hospitality sector you have a lot of people on stamp 2 visas, so what that means is they come here to learn English and they are allowed work 20 hours a week to supplement their bills, but they are not allowed to claim social welfare.
“So these people are being let off, but there is no Government support for them.”
Managing Director of Trigon Hotels Aaron Mansworth said it was is a very difficult time for hotels.
“Government supports are badly needed as quickly as possible.”
He said that the situation was entirely unprecedented and hotels were seeing between 70% to 100% fall-off in business.
“There is nothing coming in,” Mr Mansworth said.
“We are just taking it week by week, social distancing has to be done, but you can’t run a business like ours like that.
“It is the right thing to do but for our industry it is crippling.
"It’s all about looking after our people and the Government supports are badly needed.”
Speaking about staff, Mr Mansworth said most were being temporarily laid off with others working through holiday time.
“It is unprecedented and I think anything that can be done is being done.”
A statement from the Irish Hotel Federation (IHF) said that the Department of Finance response was “grossly inadequate” to the “immediate and unprecedented challenges” being faced by tourism businesses due to Covid-19 which risks wiping out a major component of the economy.
“By only offering to waive interest on late revenue payments temporarily, the Government is threatening tens of thousands of jobs and the ability of many tourism businesses and their suppliers to survive this crisis.
"Our members are experiencing alarming levels of cancellations which are having a sudden and catastrophic impact on cash flow.
"This is affecting their ability to pay their employees, first and foremost, with lay-offs and short-time now becoming a reality.
“The impact will be devastating for much of the country considering the spread of tourism jobs, some 70% of which are outside of Dublin.
"For rural hotels, in particular, the consequences are dire given the vital social and economic contribution they make to their local communities.”
The IHF is calling on An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe to intervene and ensure the implementation of the measures sought by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport as a matter of urgency.
“The Government must safeguard this essential indigenous industry that employs over 260,000 across every town and county, accounting for one in every 10 jobs and contributing over €9.2 billion in revenue to the economy," the statement said.